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Scientists have confirmed that SpaceX's Starlink satellites are emitting radiation

By: April Carson



Satellite constellations crowding Earth's orbital skies are presently causing interference in wavelength bands that should be safeguarded for radio astronomy. This pollution hampers the ability of astronomers to explore and understand the cosmos.


New research suggests that the electronics of SpaceX's Starlink satellites are emitting low-frequency radio waves, which are not within their designated downlink bands. This leakage has the potential to interfere with our ability to conduct astronomy, posing a significant impact.


Engineer Federico Di Vruno from the SKA Observatory and the International Astronomical Union stated that this study marks the most recent endeavor to enhance our comprehension of the influence satellite constellations exert on radio astronomy. In addition to the already existing risks posed by satellite constellations, this discovery could exacerbate their impact.


As the skies of Earth become increasingly crowded, the impact of satellites on our exploration of space becomes a growing concern. Currently, SpaceX has an estimated 4,365 of their compact internet satellites in orbit around our planet, with plans for thousands more. And they are not alone in this endeavor. OneWeb boasts over 600 satellites, while Amazon intends to launch thousands more, beginning in 2024.


SpaceX has indeed addressed concerns regarding visible light pollution by introducing a new satellite that emits dimmer light. However, it is important to note that visible wavelengths are just a single facet of Earth-based astronomy. The other, and potentially more significant, aspect is radio astronomy, which brings us to a potential predicament.


Satellites rely on radio frequencies ranging from 10.7 to 12.7 gigahertz for communication downlink, at least in Europe. However, concerns have been raised by researchers regarding this particular frequency range.


However, scientists hypothesized that the satellites might emit unintended radio waves beyond the designated frequency range. This is the precise matter that Di Vruno and his colleagues endeavored to probe and examine.


The researchers used multiple observatories to detect and measure the signal strength of Starlink satellites as they flew overhead. They were able to confirm that the satellites emitted a signal close to 1.2 GHz in some cases, although further research is required to determine if this was an intentional or inadvertent emission.

Utilizing the LOw-Frequency ARray (LOFAR) in Europe, a network consisting of approximately 20,000 radio antennas spread across 52 locations, they successfully observed 68 satellites from the Starlink constellation. With such remarkable sensitivity, it comes as no surprise that they were able to detect electromagnetic leakage.


According to Cees Bassa, an astronomer at ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, using LOFAR, we managed to detect radiation ranging from 110 to 188 MHz emitted by 47 out of the 68 observed satellites.


This emission seems to be accidental, originating from the satellites' electronics. Furthermore, it does not violate any regulations. While the International Electrotechnical Commission imposes strict restrictions on electrical devices here on Earth to mitigate electromagnetic interference, these regulations do not extend to outer space.


Currently, the impact is relatively minimal. However, it is important to note that this may not always be the case. As the number of satellites emitting this unintentional radio signal increases, its brightness will intensify. If ignored, this could have considerable implications for radio astronomy.


It is uncertain what the future holds for us and our exploration of space. With satellite constellations rapidly increasing in numbers, we must assess their impact on terrestrial astronomy and take action to alleviate potential hazards before they become too great to ignore.


Fortunately, a solution is already in progress. The researchers have reached out to SpaceX, actively exploring methods to mitigate or eliminate this unintended leakage. Despite the substantial number of existing machines, we are merely scratching the surface of satellite constellation technology, and there is much more to come.


The detection of satellite radio leakage at this stage presents an opportunity to address the issue proactively. As regulators strive to bridge the unexpected gap in official rules, future designs can be fine-tuned to ensure compliance and mitigate potential challenges.


"Astronomer Michael Kramer from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and the Astronomische Gesellschaft in Germany emphasizes how technology development can unintentionally impact astronomy through different channels," the present study highlights.


"We need to be aware of the impact that modern technology may have on our universe and take measures to minimize it."


In the face of these challenges and possibilities, we must all work together to ensure that future technological breakthroughs in space don't come at the expense of our terrestrial exploration. After all, the stars should remain open for everyone to explore.


The findings have been published in the esteemed journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.












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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com


To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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