Connect with us


Astronomers Fretting as SpaceX Ramps Up Starlink Launches – ExtremeTech



This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

A few years ago, SpaceX started landing Falcon 9 rocket boosters so frequently that it stopped being a major event. Now, the same is starting to happen with the company’s Starlink satellite launches. The launch of 60 new satellites this week has made SpaceX the single largest commercial satellite operator in the world, and it could soon have more satellites than all other operators combined. That has astronomers nervous.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk envisions a day when people all over the world will be able to get internet access via the company’s Starlink satellite network. Satellite internet already exists, but the bandwidth and latency are awful compared with any other modern connectivity method. Starlink is designed to avoid those shortcomings, but it’ll take a lot of satellites to get there. 

Starlink satellites are small and easy to produce en masse, and importantly, SpaceX can fit 60 of them in one of its Falcon 9 rockets. Having its own reusable rockets makes deployment much less expensive, giving it a sizeable advantage over other companies that want to launch mega-constellations. After the most recent launch, SpaceX has almost 180 Starlink satellites in orbit, and there are only about 2,100 total active satellites in space. In the space of a few months, SpaceX has become the largest satellite operator in the world, and it plans to send up more batches of satellites every few weeks. In total, it’s approved to launch 12,000, and it wants even more. 

What a SpaceX Starlink satellite looks like in orbit.

Astronomers have expressed concern about having so many satellites in orbit, and we’re already seeing some negative impacts. Astronomer Clarae Martínez-Vázquez from the CTIO observatory in Chile recently shared a series of images that may become commonplace for other astronomers. During an observation of the Magellanic Clouds, a cluster of Starlink satellites zipped through the frame, leaving bright streaks that obscured the distant galaxies. The team estimates it lost 15-20 percent of the observational data. 

The bright lines crossing the image are the tracks left by Starlink satellites.

These satellites will eventually move into higher orbits where they are less visible, but SpaceX plans to launch more every few weeks. Astronomers worry that thousands of new objects in the sky will be a problem for everyone regardless of their orbits. “You’ll see the sky crawling,” according to Tony Tyson from the University of California Davis. 

SpaceX says it has taken measures to reduce the reflectivity of its satellites, but that may not be enough. The unfortunate truth is any measures SpaceX takes are entirely voluntary. There is no national or international law protecting optical astronomy, and that could spell trouble as the skies become ever more crowded.

Now read:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Space tourism company ditches Elon Musk’s SpaceX, opts for Russian Soyuz instead – National Post



According to Space Adventures President Tom Shelley, a seat on the Russia spacecraft is in the range of $50 million to $60 million

Article content

In February 2020, the Virginia-based space tourism company Space Adventures announced a contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a joint project, mission Crew Dragon, that would send four space tourists on a mission to a ‘relatively high Earth orbit’.


Article content

With experience in flying private individuals to the International Space Station (ISS), the company announced that its planned mission, scheduled for late 2021 to early 2022, would set a new “world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight” by flying at least twice as high as the station.

Earlier this month during a visit to Moscow, however, Space Adventures President Tom Shelley told AFP “ultimately our reservation with SpaceX expired and that’s not a mission that we are going to be executing in the immediate future.”

In an interview with Space News confirming the statement, company spokesperson Stacey Tearne said “the mission was marketed to a large number of our prospective customers, but ultimately the mix of price, timing and experience wasn’t right at that particular time.”


Article content

  1. This handout photo taken and released on October 5, 2021 by Russian Space Agency Roscosmos shows crew member actress Yulia Peresild reacting as her spacesuits is tested prior to the launch onboard the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome.

    Russian actor, director flying high after reaching ISS to attempt a world first: a movie in space

  2. William Shatner (CL) gets a hug from Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on October 13, 2021, after landing in the West Texas region, 25 miles (40kms) north of Van Horn.

    ‘There is Mother Earth’: William Shatner now the world’s oldest space traveler

Meanwhile, Space Adventures was working on another project with Russian space agency Roscosmos. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, known for buying a SpaceX Starship flight around the moon in 2023, will be the first to travel to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, set to launch on December 8 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

According to Shelley, a seat on the Russia spacecraft is said to cost in the range of $50 million to $60 million.

The race to space is not a thing of the past. This now privatized business has created a competitive industry between multi-billion dollar companies and countries. Although Moscow and Washington’s relationship has been severed over a number of political issues, Shelley says that space was an exception.


Article content

“Cooperation in space in particular seems to somewhat transcend the political difficulties that exist between the United States and Russia,” he said.

Conflicting sentiments are abound concerning space tourism and exploration.

Days after Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, claimed to the BBC that “great brains and minds should be trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Simonetta Di Pippo suggests differently.

While visiting Dubai’s Expo 2020, Di Pippo told The National that “space tourism has a lot of positives and can help inspire humanity to protect their planet. It’s really the attempt of bringing space closer to humanity and humanity closer to space.”



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Lambton County installing glass barriers in council chambers – Chatham This Week



Glass barriers will be installed between the desks of Lambton County councillors in the council chambers in Wyoming ahead of January when the council is expected to begin meeting again in person.

Article content

Glass barriers will be installed between the desks of Lambton County councillors in the council chambers in Wyoming ahead of January, when in-person meetings are expected to resume.

Article content

The barriers are expected to cost $12,000 but will free county councillors from having to wear face masks during the meetings.

“It maybe is a little bit of overkill” but “we want to make sure all of council is comfortable and feeling secure,” said Warwick Township Mayor Jackie Rombouts, chairperson of the county council committee reviewing a staff report that recently outlined steps being taken for the resumption of in-person meetings.

The report noted the barriers are required under regulations, given the layout of the council chambers where members sit close together.

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper and Warwick Township Mayor Jackie Rombouts are shown during a meeting of Lambton County council held before the start of the pandemic.
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper and Warwick Township Mayor Jackie Rombouts are shown during a meeting of Lambton County council held before the start of the pandemic. Photo by Paul Morden /Paul Morden/The Observer

“If people are going to be in close proximity to each other without a mask, current regulations would require that impermeable partition,” said Stephane Thiffeault, the county’s general manager of corporate services.

County council and its committees have been meeting online since the pandemic began but decided in September to plan for a return to in-person meetings in January, subject to changes in public-health guidelines.

Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber noted everyone attending in-person meetings will be vaccinated.

When “you can fill a stadium with people cheering on a team, it seems silly that 17 of us need to have partitions between us,” he said.

County council voted recently to require that councillors show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or a recent test, to attend in-person meetings when they resume. Councillors can also continuing attending meetings “virtually.”

Article content

County councillors will also be required to “self-screen” for COVID-19 symptoms before attending meetings and use hand sanitizer on the way into council chambers. They will be required to wear a mask and maintain social distances when not seated at their desk.

A limited number of county staff will attend the meetings while others will participate virtually, the report said.

Limited space will be available in the gallery for the public, who will be required to sign in. A total of 38 members of the public can be accommodated in the gallery, allowing for social distancing, the report said.

Members of the public will also be able to watch from a committee room overlooking the chambers, and the meetings will continue to broadcast online for the public.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Signs of first planet found outside our galaxy – Yahoo News Canada



The finding comes from observation of an X-ray binary – a neutron star or black hole pulling in gas from a companion star

Astronomers have found hints of what could be the first planet ever to be discovered outside our galaxy.

Nearly 5,000 “exoplanets” – worlds orbiting stars beyond our Sun – have been found so far, but all of these have been located within the Milky Way galaxy.

The possible planet signal discovered by Nasa’s Chandra X-Ray Telescope is in the Messier 51 galaxy.

This is located some 28 million light-years away from the Milky Way.

This new result is based on transits, where the passage of a planet in front of a star blocks some of the star’s light and yields a characteristic dip in brightness that can be detected by telescopes.

This general technique has already been used to find thousands of exoplanets.

Dr Rosanne Di Stefano and colleagues searched for dips in the brightness of X-rays received from a type of object known as an X-ray bright binary.

These objects typically contain a neutron star or black hole pulling in gas from a closely orbiting companion star. The material near the neutron star or black hole becomes superheated and glows at X-ray wavelengths.

Because the region producing bright X-rays is small, a planet passing in front of it could block most or all of the X-rays, making the transit easier to spot.

The team members used this technique to detect the exoplanet candidate in a binary system called M51-ULS-1.

“The method we developed and employed is the only presently implementable method to discover planetary systems in other galaxies,” Dr Di Stefano, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US, told BBC News.

“It is a unique method, uniquely well-suited to finding planets around X-ray binaries at any distance from which we can measure a light curve.”

Future planet-hunting

This binary contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. A neutron star is the collapsed core of what had once been a massive star.

The transit lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero. Based on this and other information, the astronomers estimate that the candidate planet would be around the size of Saturn, and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance Saturn lies from the Sun.

Dr Di Stefano said the techniques that have been so successful for finding exoplanets in the Milky Way break down when observing other galaxies. This is partly because the great distances involved reduce the amount of light which reaches the telescope and also mean that many objects are crowded into a small space (as viewed from Earth), making it difficult to resolve individual stars.

With X-rays, she said, “there may be only several dozen sources spread out over the entire galaxy, so we can resolve them. In addition, a subset of these are so bright in X-rays that we can measure their light curves.

“Finally, the huge emission of X-rays comes from a small region that can be substantially or (as in our case) totally blocked by a passing planet.”

Messier 51Messier 51

Messier 51 is also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive spiral shape

The researchers freely admit that more data is needed to verify their interpretation.

One challenge is that the planet candidate’s large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, quashing any attempts to make a follow-up observation in the near-term.

One other possible explanation that the astronomers considered is that the dimming has been caused by a cloud of gas and dust passing in front of the X-ray source.

However, they think this is unlikely, because the characteristics of the event do not match up with the properties of a gas cloud.

“We know we are making an exciting and bold claim so we expect that other astronomers will look at it very carefully,” said co-author Julia Berndtsson of Princeton University, New Jersey.

“We think we have a strong argument, and this process is how science works.”

Dr Di Stefano said that the new generation of optical and infrared telescopes would not be able to compensate for the problems of crowding and dimness, so observations at X-ray wavelengths would likely remain the primary method for detecting planets in other galaxies.

However, she said a method known as microlensing might also hold promise for identifying extra-galactic planets.

The study has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy.

Follow Paul on Twitter.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading