Back in September, we shared the news regarding the fear surrounding the launch of the BlueWalker-3 satellite. Responsible for providing internet connectivity, the satellite built by AST SpaceMobile has an antenna that makes the structure easily visible to the naked eye from Earth.
It now seems that experts were right when they feared that the BlueWalker-3 satellite would become too prevalent in the night sky. According to pcmag.com, the satellite is currently one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Therefore, it could jeopardize astronomers’ possibilities to observe some space objects from the soil.
The International Astronomical Union has a wake-up call
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is now raising awareness, urging companies to reduce the impact their satellites can have when it comes to astronomy. The nongovernmental organization is not against the use of the BlueWalker-3 satellite, however. IAU also confirms that the satellite is currently one of the brightest objects in the night sky and that only the brightest stars can outshine it.
AST SpaceMobile explained as pcmag.com quotes:
We are eager to use the newest technologies and strategies to mitigate possible impacts to astronomy. We are actively working with industry experts on the latest innovations, including next-generation anti-reflective materials. We are also engaged with NASA and certain working groups within the astronomy community to participate in advanced industry solutions, including potential operational interventions.
Philip Diamond, the director-general for SKA Observatory, explained as the same source quotes:
Astronomers build radio telescopes as far away as possible from human activity, looking for places on the planet where there is limited or no cell phone coverage,
Frequencies allocated to cell phones are already challenging to observe even in radio quiet zones we have created for our facilities,
New satellites such as BlueWalker 3 have the potential to worsen this situation and compromise our ability to do science if not properly mitigated.
The International Astronomical Union is made up of 12,000 members. Some of the brightest stars that exist in the night sky are Sirius, Vega, Arcturus, Canopus, and so on.