Elon Musk’s satellites hindering detection of near-Earth asteroids, study finds

Want stories that are quite literally out of this world? Get Spaced Out direct your inbox

Elon Musk's Starlink satellites are hindering scientists trying to detect near-Earth asteroids, according to a new study.

At the moment, there are almost 1,800 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth roughly 550km away, providing internet to 24 different countries.

Musk, the world's richest man, has been sending an increasing amount of satellites into orbit since 2019 through his company SpaceX.

The American aerospace manufacturer also plans to have 10,000 Starlink satellites in orbit by 2027.

Now, a study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters has investigated concerns among astronomers that Starlink satellites are obstructing observations, prompted by the frequency with which they have been leaving streaks on telescope imagery.

The new study specifically investigates the impact of the satellites on the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) which investigates "a broad range of time-domain science ranging from near-Earth asteroids to the study of distant superluminous supernovae", according to their website.

The study explains: "There is a growing concern about an impact of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellations on ground-based astronomical observations, in particular, on wide-field surveys in the optical and infrared."

Przemek Mróz, a University of Warsaw astronomer and the study's lead author, said that Starlink satellites were responsible for 5,301 streaks on telescope imagery between November 2019 and September 2021 alone.

He also explained how the number of "twilight images" affected rose from 0.5% to 20% between 2019 and 2021.

"We don't expect Starlink satellites to affect non-twilight images, but if the satellite constellation of other companies goes into higher orbits, this could cause problems for non-twilight observations," he said.

Given SpaceX's intention to continue expanding their Starlink fleet, astronomers predict that soon every twilight image from the ZTF will have at least one streak.

In 2020, SpaceX responded to astronomers' concerns by attaching visors to the new satellites.

However, given the study's continued detection of streaks in 2021, that did little to quell the concerns.

For the latest breaking news and stories from across the globe from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.

  • Elon Musk
  • Asteroids
  • Spaced Out
  • Space
  • Spacex

Source: Read Full Article