Astronomers’ Efforts to Preserve Astronomy Amid Satellite Threats

A burst of highly energetic light was documented in 2020 by astronomers. However, less than a year later, the paper’s claims lay in limbo. Some scientists said it was just a passing satellite. “I was a bit sad that the gamma ray burst turned out to be just an artificial satellite,” said Krzysztof Kamiński, an astronomer at the Astronomical Observatory Institute in Poland. Linhua Jiang, who led the original finding, said his team stood by their work, adding that the probability of a satellite passing directly in front of the distant galaxy at exactly the right moment was minuscule.
The increasing number of satellites in Earth’s orbit is interfering with ground astronomy’s ability to research the cosmos. Strategies to preserve the power of astronomy are being developed, including the cooperation between the industry and regulators to eliminate satellite interference, and the use of technology to anticipate and dodge passing satellites. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory coming online in 2025 will soon face this challenge. The institute is working on strategies that involve improving the telescope’s ability to avoid capturing images marred by satellites, as well as developing algorithms to gather pristine final images.
Another question presented was whether telescope builders should consider changing their hardware – particularly integrating large CMOS detectors. This problem has been noted as buying and integrating large CMOS detectors is expensive compared with existing CCD detectors. It has been suggested that the government should help fund the upgrade. While the government has not moved to compel satellite operators to help pay for telescope upgrades, some companies are attempting to address aspects of the problem. SpaceX has declined to comment but has been working on reducing sunlight reflections while astronomers are working on strategies for their telescopes to avoid capturing images marred by satellites.

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