At night, the sky is filled with light from stars and planets, but one of the brightest lights comes from a Tetris block-shaped satellite, he says. Watchman.
Scientists revealed in a study that the BueWalker 3 communications satellite shines at most as brightly as Procyon and Achernar, two of the brightest stars that can be seen from Earth. The satellite has a large surface that reflects sunlight, which contributes to light pollution.
It’s visible in both dark skies and urban skies, but in urban environments it will be limited when Bluewalker 3 passes directly overhead, says Jeremy Tregloan-Reid, co-author of the study at the University of Atacama in Chile.
Leaves streaks behind
Satellite isn’t just a potential coffee table discussion point. It could also pose real problems for astronomers.
“Large constellations of bright satellites in low Earth orbit pose major challenges to ground-based astronomy,” says Jeremy Tregloan-Reid.
When such a satellite crosses a telescope’s detector, it leaves behind a line that may be difficult, or impossible, to remove, so data in the affected pixels can be salvaged, according to Tregloan-Reid.
BlueWalker 3 is the precursor to a full constellation of planned satellites that will form a mobile broadband network. A spokesman for AST Space Mobile, which built the satellite, said it would take steps, such as equipping the next generation of satellites with anti-reflective materials. But it also highlights that their broadband network is being built to reduce poverty, promote economic development and save lives.
This study is not the first to raise the issue of light pollution resulting from satellites in the night sky. Earlier this year, scientists called for a “stand up to ‘big light’,” saying the number of low-altitude satellites should be limited to reduce light pollution and preserve the ability to study the night sky, The Guardian wrote.
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