Will New Giant Reflective Satellites Erase Tri-Cities Night Sky?
The largest satellite ever created was launched into space last Saturday by a SpaceX rocket and some scientists are worried about it. The satellite is named BlueWalker 3 and it is built by Texas-based firm AST SpaceMobile. Some scientists think that when the satellites reflective array is extended, it could be the brightest thing in the night sky. Here is why they think that is a problem.
According to universetoday, "the satellite will feature a reflective 64-meter square antenna (8-meters or ~24 feet on a side) once unfurled. For context, the inflatable Echo-1 sphere launched by the U.S. in 1960 was only slightly larger (30 meters across) and was easily visible to the naked eye at around magnitude 0." The plan is to "test demonstrator for the company’s Larger BlueBird satellite constellation, which will eventually field 110 satellites in low-Earth orbit for global coverage."
"BlueWalker satellite will be as bright as the star Vega near zenith in twilight" according to an interview with Connie Walker on gizmodo. The real problem comes when the 110-satellite array is installed reflecting a large amount of light pollution on their coverage area. To identify how serious a threat this may be, the "NSF’s NOIRLab and the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference have called on astronomers from around the world to take brightness observations of the satellite once it’s in orbit" according to the story.
A quote from the story says it best. "The advancement in technology brings on an exciting era for our connectivity, so hopefully it doesn’t come at the cost of our ability to stare at celestial objects and gather valuable data about the universe."