Back to Volume
Paper: Satellite Constellation Issues Need Science Communicators
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 148
Authors: Hall, J.; Walker, C.; Krafton, K.
Abstract: Future large constellations of bright satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEOsats) will fundamentally change observational astronomy at optical wavelengths. Nighttime images without satellite trails will no longer be the norm. If the 100,000+ LEOsats proposed are deployed, no combination of mitigations can fully avoid the impacts of satellite trails on science programs of current and planned ground-based optical astronomical facilities. Astrophotography, amateur astronomy, and the human experience of a starry night sky are already affected. The report from the Satellite Constellations 1 (SATCON1) workshop (29 June-2 July 2020), as well as the report from the Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society (D&QS) workshop (October 5-9 2020), support these statements. The aim of SATCON1 and the Satellite Constellation Working Group of D&QS was to better quantify the impacts of LEOsat constellations, explore possible mitigations, and make recommendations. Mitigation strategies for the most damaging impacts on scientific programs are being actively explored by astronomers worldwide. These investigations have benefited from collaboration with SpaceX, the first operator to launch satellite constellations. SpaceX has shown that operators can reduce reflected sunlight through satellite orientation, Sun shielding, and surface darkening. A joint effort to obtain higher accuracy public data on predicted locations of satellites (or ephemerides) could enable some pointing avoidance and mid-exposure shuttering during satellite passage. Observatories need to adopt more dynamic scheduling and observation management as the number of constellation satellites increases, though these measures may prove ineffective for many science programs. To successfully implement these next steps, more buy-in is needed from our astronomy community and the general public. What if our community of science educators and communicators could create awareness of the issues and possible mitigations? Come to our session to learn more.
Back to Volume