As radio astronomers discover the impact of satellite constellations on their work, optical astronomers are already tracking satellite lines in their fields of view.
In mid-November, Cliff Johnson, an astronomer at Northwestern University, was watching the Chilean night sky when he saw a train with 60 bright spots. It was the second batch of SpaceX satellites, which were launched a few days ago.
Dr. Johnson said: “It was incredible – watching one after another one.”
At the time, the 4-meter Blanco telescope was used at the Cerro Tololo International Observatory of America to observe the outer edges of the large and small Magellanian clouds – two dwarf galaxies. Dr. Johnson suspected that when satellites pass in front of the telescope, he or she may pick up one or two of them. While that, He is counting 19. SpaceX has since sent 120 satellites into orbit.
“If you have tens of thousands of satellites in orbit, this is the picture you expect to get very often,” said Patrick Seitzer, honorary professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan.
Growing constellations can be a serious problem for Vera C. Robin Observatory (Formerly known as Synoptic Survey Telescope) – A 27-foot telescope under construction in Chile that scans the entire sky every three days. Since the telescope has a wide field of view, it will more easily capture new satellites and may lose large amounts of observation time, especially near dusk and dawn.
On the surface, OneWeb’s moons might seem to be a smaller problem than Starlink.
First, there will be fewer orbits in the OneWeb constellation. It also rotates at a much greater distance from the Earth. It is designed to be smaller with a rough surface that reflects less light. These three properties make satellites quieter than Starlink, and are invisible to the naked eye. This means that satellites will not mask your view of the universe during a camping trip, as many fear when Starlink was first published.
But any telescope will be able to see them. In addition, their high orbit presents a clear challenge to large research telescopes such as the Robin Observatory.