Astronomers Petition UN for Help With Satellite Constellations

An increasing number of satellites in Earth's orbit threaten skywatching.

An increasing number of satellites in Earth’s orbit threaten skywatching.
picture: ESO

Astronomers looking at the night sky are beginning to feel it Effects of the increasing number of satellites They swarm in orbit around the Earth, and they want to do something about it before it’s too late. An international group of astronomy organizations has come together to petition the United Nations, asking it to form a group that monitors the impact of satellites on astronomy.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO) have submitted a paper to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) proposing the creation of a new expert group dedicated to the issue, according to ESO.

A delegation of astronomy groups attended the 60th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of Cobos held from February 6-17, where the hottest topic of discussion was how to protect the sky from the interference of large satellite constellations. The proposal to form an expert group was submitted at the end of the session, and was signed by the COPUOS member states of Chile, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Peru and South Africa, as well as ESO, IAU and SKAO.

If approved, the expert group will report to STSC and monitor the impact of satellites on astronomy, seek input from stakeholders, and make suggestions on potential mitigation measures.

“There is a domino effect from the discussions at Cobos that could influence governments and companies to act,” Andrew Williams, ESO’s external relations officer, said in a statement. “Among the large number of countries from all regions of the world that have expressed support for our proposal, we hope that we can find a way forward in the main session of the Commission.”

Copus will hold its main session in June, when the organizations hope the proposal will be adopted, as well as other solutions to the issue. Today, there are 8,000 active and defunct satellites orbiting Earth and that number is expected to increase exponentially with up to 100,000 satellites being deployed over the next decade, according to ESO.

This offers an impressive number of satellites, with companies like SpaceX And blue origin Huge Internet clusters built in low Earth orbit, and relatively smaller company AST SpaceMobile launched a large-scale satellite Shining like the stars of Orion. Orbiting satellites interfere with terrestrial observations of the sky by adding a lot of noise to the images, which it does by reflecting sunlight. Satellites spoil the scientific data that astronomers collect, appearing as bright streaks in astronomical images.

“If we get to a point where there are 100,000 or more satellites, no matter what mitigations companies can make, it’s going to have a huge impact on astronomy,” Williams said. “There is also a risk of affecting our ability to detect potentially dangerous asteroids, as well as damaging the pristine skies that have been a fixture of humanity.”

SpaceX is working with the Federation of Astronomical Societies in an effort to mitigate the effects of its Starlink satellites on telescopes’ views of the sky. Possible solutions include using less reflective materials and reorienting satellites in space. ESO and its partners hope for a collaborative effort between the satellite industry, government, and astronomers to “reach a satisfactory balance between the need to develop the space economy in low-Earth orbit and the need to protect astronomy and a pure view of the night sky,” ESO wrote in its statement.

more: Scientists have warned that huge “cell phone towers in space” pose a major threat to radio astronomy


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