The skies are crowded.
On Friday, OneWeb, a telecom company based in London, deployed 34 satellites into orbit from a launch site in Kazakhstan. The satellites were launched steadily over a few hours and started to establish a constellation of the Company that will eventually comprise 650 operating satellites— adequate to provide high-speed broadband internet to each corner of the world by the end of 2021, one web believes.
Several astronomers have been alarmed by the view, partly because it’s the latest drift launched. SpaceX, the rocket manufacturer, created by Elon Musk, has launched 240 satellites from last spring and seeks the approval of 42,000 for Starlink, its spatial Internet system. Many other businesses such as Amazon, Facebook, and Telesat tend to the sky as well.
If OneWeb and Starlink excel, almost five times the number of satellites that have been launched since 1957 since Sputnik 1, will launch into space.
Such constellations could affect the research of astronomy — sabotaging the radio frequencies used to observe deep space and to leave bright inserts in telescope pictures. Astronomers had trouble assessing their area of possible damage, and so far, Starlink has become the primary focus of their research. Yet OneWeb poses a host of further questions.
One of the critical problems is that the constellation of OneWeb may generate radio chatter.
Astronomers have designed large radio plates for the study of objects that offer little visible light yet emit natural radio waves, like faraway planets, gas clouds, and galaxies. Radio astronomers observed a black hole’s first image last year. So Earth scientists measure the atmosphere using such frequencies.
SpaceX and OneWeb were requested to coordinate with radio astronomers by the federal communications agency. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded research institute, and the National Science Foundation started working together with both companies.
Though each firm decided not to use the lower part of its allotted spectrum to prevent the band from becoming contaminated, SpaceX moved faster to make adjustments and to conclude the final operating agreement. But N.R.A.O. Officials said that for over two years, they had not heard from OneWeb, although it was collaborating with the F.C.C.’s equivalent in Europe.
While radio astronomers are exploring the effects of satellite constellations on their research, optical astronomers continue to track satellite streaks throughout the fields of view.
In mid-November, a train of 60 bright spots appeared to Cliff Johnson, an astronomer at the University of Northwest. It was the second satellite package launched days earlier by SpaceX.
Satellites such as Starlink and OneWeb can only be visible because of the illumination. They virtually disappear after they pass into Earth’s shadow. Since the shadow of the Earth is like a sphere, lower orbiting satellites become invisible for the most part during the night, whereas higher orbiting satellites are more visible.