As reflective satellites fill the skies, UA students helping astronomers adapt

Thu, 04 Aug 2022 05:11:47 GMT
Space Daily

Tucson AZ (SPX) Aug 04, 2022 As satellites crawl across the sky, they reflect light from the sun...

As more companies launch networks of satellites into low-Earth orbit, a clear view of the night sky is becoming rarer.

The study details how the team created a satellite tracking device to measure the brightness and position of SpaceX Starlink satellites and compared those observations to government satellite tracking data from the Space Track Catalog database.

The team made 353 measurements of 61 satellites over two years and found that the position of Starlink satellites as recorded in the government's Space Track Catalog only differed by an average of 0.3 arc seconds from the UArizona calculations.

SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019.

Today, more than 2,700 Starlink satellites have launched - a fraction of the intended total of 42,000 satellites.

Other examples of satellite constellations include 31 GPS satellites and 75 iridium satellites for communication.

These satellites are even more reflective right after launch, while they are still relatively low and tightly clustered before they spread throughout their orbit over time.

"While these modifications are steps in the right direction, they also don't dim the satellites enough for astronomical surveys," said research team member Adam Battle, a graduate student studying planetary science.

Costs will continue to increase as more satellites are launched, Reddy said.

The team plans to build upon its success by studying the brightness of the latest generation of Starlink satellites in four different colored filters - the same ones used in astronomical surveys of the sky to tease out different information from stars, planets and more.