Look Up: Starlink is Leaving “Scratches” in Telescope Images

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 19, 2022
Updated 2022/01/19 at 2:45 AM

do you know the term photobomb? Have you ever made that face appearing hidden in the background of a photo just to get in the way or have you been a “victim”? For the Starlink satellites are disturbing the image records of telescopes in observatories. If with more than 1,500 satellites only from SpaceX The astronomy is already facing these problems, imagine when the company completes the planned 10,500 pieces of equipment. And there are still more companies in the game!

Satellites will be in all images

Astronomers have already entered the sect… Don’t accept that it hurts less. With the starlink completing its constellation of satellites and more other companies (such as amazon, Boeing and One Web), it is expected that “virtually all images” from telescopes located on the ground will have the low orbit satellites. However, the study that analyzed the impact on space photos (done by Zwicky Transient Facility) only researched the appearance of equipment from the starlink. Not out of entanglement with the Elon Musk, but because the internet service of SpaceX is the most advanced (yes, things are only going to get worse), with the most satellites in orbit. In 2019, 0.5% of photos were affected. Currently, it is 20% of the images.

Image affected by a Starlink satellite Source: Caltech Optical Observatories/IPAC.

Because of their altitude, the Starlink satellites are most visible in images taken during twilight, the change between day and night. Listening to the astronomical community, the company installed panels in the new generations of satellite that act as “dark glasses”, protecting the light from being reflected by the antenna.

The satellites of OneWeb and others from amazon may have a longer impact on uptake. Images are captured using the long exposure technique, which causes more light to be captured by the sensor (“photography” means drawing with light). THE OneWeb is releasing its satellites at an altitude of over 600 km (SpaceX works with smaller orbits) and the amazon will send yours to heights of 510 km, 610 km and 630 km. You satellites below 600 km, closer to Earth, are more visible than those at higher altitudes. However, after 600 km the satellites are illuminated for a longer time, causing a prolonged impact on image capture. Even in the search for objects close to Earth… don’t look up! You will only see satellites.


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Via: Ars Technica Source: Caltech

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