The Starlink satellites could pose a threat to future science from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other Earth-orbiting observatories.
The Starlink constellation now includes more than 3,000 satellites launched by SpaceX as part of CEO Elon Musk’s vision of high-speed broadband internet to blanket Earth.
These satellites are already photobombing telescope observations on the ground. But according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature Astronomy, even telescopes in space are no longer safe.
Hubble’s dashed white lines show the effect of just one satellite flying through the telescope’s field of view.
The proportion of Hubble images that look like this is increasing as more satellites fill Earth’s orbit, the study found.
Images like this can hamper astronomers’ work because the streaks block the distant galaxies and stars they’re trying to study. For now, that’s not a huge problem, according to NASA.
“Most of these streaks are readily removed using standard data reduction techniques, and the majority of affected images are still useable. Satellite streaks do not currently pose a significant threat to Hubble’s science efficiency and data analysis,” NASA spokesperson Claire Andreoli told Insider in an email.
Sometimes the removal methods help, and sometimes they don’t, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the new study.
He told Insider, “It’s certainly an exaggeration to say that with a streak everything is ruined, but I think it’s an understatement to say that it doesn’t matter.” “Some of them are not usable for the purpose of the science for which they were made.”
The proportion of damaged images from satellites could skyrocket over the next five years, forever changing our ability to study the universe from Earth’s orbit.
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Information Source: BI