Satellite Light Pollution Is Worsening And Disrupting Astronomers

Satellite light pollution is the accumulation of space debris, like satellites that affect both naked-eye and astronomical observations.

Satellite light pollution is the accumulation of space debris, like satellites and discarded space objects that affect both naked-eye and astronomical observations.

Astronomers are already on edge about the numerous satellites in the low-Earth orbit as it disrupts them from doing their observations. Now, a new analysis posted online reveals that there is no longer a place on Earth that is not affected by satellite light pollution brought by these satellites and space junk.

“It’s a bit of an eye-opener,” says John Barentine, director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association. “As space gets more crowded, the magnitude of this effect will only be more, not less.”

Barentine’s 2020 study, entitled “Magnitude to luminance conversions and visual brightness of the night sky” and published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and other advocates focus more on the effects of the bright trails from these satellites affect astronomical observations.

Mega-constellations of Satellites Disrupting Astronomical Observations

Astronomers have been saying that the mega-constellations of satellites in space are disrupting their observations, making studying space even more challenging.

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites and other companies like Amazon, OneWeb, and many others are planning to send tens of thousands of satellites in the low-Earth orbit in total and astronomers fear that it could mess up their observations.

Astronomers have been accustomed to seeing satellites crossing their view one at a time and it causes no problem as it does not ruin observations. However, Vox reported that today there are hundreds of satellites in orbit that lead to 15% to 20% of the image is completely lost.

Astronomers believe that it is an omen of a future that just about every twilight telescope observation will be messed up by satellite light pollution as satellite streaks grow in numbers.

They fear that as the Earth will be blanketed by tens of thousands of satellites, they will greatly outnumber the 9,000 stars that are visible even to the naked-eye observers.

They believe that in the long run, it could diminish their view of the universe and create more space junk that will potentially deprive humanity of the beautiful view of the night sky. Having thousands of these satellites in orbit near Earth is no longer a small deal and some experts worry that it might already be too late to fight back.

No Place On Earth Where Satellite Light Pollution Is Not Present

Slovak Academy of Sciences astronomer Miroslav Kocifaj wondered whether the mega-constellations of satellites and debris above the Earth might scatter light back into the atmosphere and add background glow to the night sky.

Astronomers like Barentine and Kocifaj found that these satellites do give an additional glow to the night sky and diffuse light by around 10%.

According to Science Magazine, the new analysis suggests that nowhere on Earth anymore meets the standards for building observatories, wherein it is required to have light pollution less than 10% than natural light.

Barentine said that the human eye can detect small contrast differences and most stargazers will likely not notice the effect. However, it atters to astronomers who are observing the universe and looking for faint, sprawling objects, like dim galaxies.

Astronomers have already deeded long exposures on the biggest telescopes on the planet to observe the universe in the darkest sites available.

Originally published at Science Times

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