The constellation of satellites hovering in Earth orbit is currently polluting the supposedly protected wavelength band for radio astronomy.
based on New questHowever, the electronics on SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are leaking low-frequency radio waves, separate from their assigned downlink bands, in a way that can affect our ability to do astronomy.
“This study is the latest attempt to better understand the impact of satellite constellations on radio astronomy,” said engineer Federico de Frono Observatory SKA dan International Astronomical Union.
Previous workshops about The sky is dark and silent Theorizing about this radiation, our observations confirm that it is measurable.”
As Earth’s sky becomes denser, the impact of satellites on our study of space becomes even more concerning. Currently, SpaceX has an extension estimated at 4,365 their own small Internet satellite in Earth orbit, with thousands more planned. And they’re not the only company. OneWeb It has more than 600. Amazon Plans to launch thousands more early In 2024.
SpaceX listened to concerns about visible light pollution and designed a boring new satellite. But visible wavelengths represent only one kind of Earth-based astronomy. As for the other branch, it could be said to be much bigger than that radio astronomersHerein lies the problem.
Radio frequencies between 10.7 and 12.7 GHz are used by downlink satellites for communications, at least in Europe; researchers already Express concern about this.
But scientists think the satellite may take off Accidental radio waves outside of that band. This is what de Verono and his colleagues wanted to investigate.
They use a low frequency matrix (Louvre) in Europe, a network of about 20,000 radio antennas is distributed throughout 52 locations. With this level of sensitivity, they observed 68 satellites belonging to the Starlink constellation. Sure enough, they detected an electromagnetic leak.
A group of images showing the trajectory of the Starlink satellite taken one night in 2019 (HOW)
“Using LOFAR, we detected radiation between 110 and 188 MHz from 47 of the 68 observed satellites,” said astronomer Cess Basa From ASTRON, the Dutch Institute of Radio Astronomy.
“This frequency band includes the band protected between 150.05 and 153 MHz as assigned for radio astronomy by the International Telecommunication Union.”
These emissions appear to be accidental, originating from the satellite’s electronics. It’s also not against the rules. on this earth, International Electronics Commission It places strict restrictions on electrical devices to control electromagnetic interference, but those rules don’t apply in outer space.
The effect has been relatively minimal, so far. But it doesn’t always have to be like this. The more satellites that transmit this accidental radio signal, the brighter it becomes.
Radio telescopes like ASKAP in Australia rely on calm skies. (CSIRO)
However, a solution is already in the works. Researchers have contacted SpaceX, which is looking for ways to reduce or eliminate these accidental leaks. And while there are already thousands of machines out there, we’re really only at the beginning of satellite constellation technology.
This made satellite radio leaks a problem that was noticed early on. Future designs may be adapted as regulators work to fill unexpected gaps in official regulations.
“The current study highlights an example of how channels differ on how technological developments can have unexpected side effects on astronomy,” says astronomer Michael Kramer from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and Gesellschaft Astronomy in Germany.
“With SpaceX as an example, we now look forward to broad support from the rest of the satellite industry and regulators.”
Research published in Astronomy and astrophysics.
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