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Astronomers Find Growing Number of Starlink Satellite Tracks

Enlarge / A Starlink track running across the Andromeda galaxy. (credit: Caltech Optical Observatories/IPAC)

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service will require a dense constellation of satellites to provide consistent, low-latency connectivity. The system already has over 1,500 satellites in orbit and has received approval to operate 12,000 of them. And that has astronomers worried. Although SpaceX has taken steps to reduce the impact of its hardware, there’s no way to completely eliminate the tracks the satellites leave across ground-based observations.

How bad is the problem? A team of astronomers has used archival images from a survey telescope to look for Starlink tracks over the past two years. Over that time, the number of images affected rose by a factor of 35, and the researchers estimate that, by the time the planned Starlink constellation is complete, pretty much every image from their hardware will have at least one track in it.

Looking widely

The hardware used for the analysis is called the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory. The ZTF is designed to pick up rare events, such as supernovae. It does so by scanning the entire sky repeatedly, with software scanning the resulting images to look for objects that were absent in early images but appeared in later ones. The ZTF’s high sensitivity makes it good for picking out dim objects, like asteroids, in our own Solar System.

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Source Here: arstechnica.com

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