July 22, 2024

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SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are leaking radiation, scientists confirm: ScienceAlert

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are leaking radiation, scientists confirm: ScienceAlert

The constellations of satellites hovering in Earth’s orbit are currently polluting wavelength bands that are supposed to be protected for radio astronomy.

according to New searchHowever, electronics aboard SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are leaking low-frequency radio waves, separate from their assigned downlink bands, in a way that could affect our ability to perform astronomy.

“This study represents the latest effort to better understand the impact of satellite constellations on radio astronomy,” says engineer Federico de Frono SKA Observatory and the International Astronomical Union.

Previous workshops on Dark, quiet sky Theorized about this radiation, our observations confirm that it is measurable.”

As Earth’s skies become more crowded, the impact of satellites on our study of space becomes a growing concern. Currently, SpaceX has an extension estimated at 4,365 of their own small Internet satellites in Earth orbit, with thousands more planned. And they are not the only company. OneWeb It has more than 600. Amazon Plans to launch thousands more beginning In the year 2024.

SpaceX listened to concerns about visible light pollution and designed a new, dull satellite. But visible wavelengths represent only one type of Earth-based astronomy. As for the other branch, it can be said that it is much larger than that radio astronomyHerein lies what might be 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 concerns about these.

But scientists thought satellites might take off Unintentional radio waves outside of that band. This is what de Verono and his colleagues set out to investigate.

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They used the low frequency matrix (Louvre) in Europe, a network of about 20,000 radio antennas 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 set of images showing the trajectories of Starlink satellites taken on one night in 2019 (GMN)

“Using LOFAR, we detected radiation between 110 and 188 MHz from 47 of the 68 satellites observed,” says astronomer Cess Basa From ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

“This frequency band includes a protected band between 150.05 and 153 MHz designated for radio astronomy by the International Telecommunication Union.”

This emission appears to be unintentional, coming from the satellite electronics. It also does not break any rules. here on earth, International Electrotechnical Commission It places severe restrictions on electrical devices to control electromagnetic interference, but those rules don’t apply in space.

The effect is relatively minimal, so far. But it doesn’t always have to be like this. The more satellites that emit this unintentional radio signal, the brighter it becomes.

Radio telescopes such as ASKAP in Australia rely on calm skies. (CSIRO)

However, a solution is already in the works. The researchers have contacted SpaceX, which is working on ways to reduce or eliminate this unintentional leak. And while there are already thousands of machines out there, we’re really only at the beginning of satellite constellation technology.

This makes satellite radio leakage a problem that was caught relatively early on. Future designs could be adjusted accordingly as regulators work to fill an unexpected gap in the official rules.

“The current study highlights an example of how the different channels of how technology development may have unexpected side effects on astronomy,” says astronomer Michael Kramer from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and Astronomy Gesellschaft in Germany.

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“With SpaceX as an example, we now hope to gain broad support from the entire satellite industry and regulators.”

Research published in Astronomy and astrophysics.