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Economist magazine: "Vast satellite constellations are alarming astronomers"

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#1 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 29 November 2021 - 11:07 AM

Economist has published an article on the issue we know well. The title in the print edition is "Goodbye darkness, my old friend". 

 

I thought of sharing it as I haven't seen it posted, it's good to see coverage of the issue in the mainstream media. They note well that "no satellite can replace the delight of star-gazing from your own back garden, or a local hilltop, with just a telescope or a pair of binoculars and the whole universe to look at.". 

 

https://www.economis...ing-astronomers


Edited by RazvanUnderStars, 29 November 2021 - 11:08 AM.

 

#2 skins

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Posted 03 December 2021 - 07:27 AM

and yet another by an assistant professor studying the Kuiper belt 

 

https://www.msn.com/...G?ocid=msedgntp


 

#3 DHEB

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 02:02 PM

Good article that will hopefully be read by a wider public than just astronomers.

 

"And no satellite can replace the delight of star-gazing from your own back garden, or a local hilltop, with just a telescope or a pair of binoculars and the whole universe to look at."

 

Good sentence at the beginning of the last paragraph.


 

#4 skysurfer

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 03:47 PM

Finally all this space junk will break up and make it virtually impossible to launch new vehicles into space.


 

#5 nwcs

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 05:12 PM

It’s far too late. Light pollution is such that probably a majority of humanity has no idea what the night sky should even look like now. Adding in more junk in the sky is minor compared to the awesomeness of faster internet they will think.

Just another brick in the wall.
 

#6 Delta608

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 06:18 PM

It’s far too late. Light pollution is such that probably a majority of humanity has no idea what the night sky should even look like now. Adding in more junk in the sky is minor compared to the awesomeness of faster internet they will think.

Just another brick in the wall.

  Not just faster, but availability !!!  Awesome !!


 

#7 RLK1

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Posted 05 December 2021 - 06:32 PM

It’s far too late. Light pollution is such that probably a majority of humanity has no idea what the night sky should even look like now. Adding in more junk in the sky is minor compared to the awesomeness of faster internet they will think.

Just another brick in the wall.

It's worth pointing yet again that professional astronomers are more acutely affected because these satellites and the aberrations they cause, particularly in wide field surveys, are especially problematic since the streaks have to be removed from the images and the scientific data that is lost when the pixels are removed and can't be put back into the image. Radio astronomy is also significantly at risk because of interference from these satellites. That's why professional astronomers are approaching the UN for possible solutions since various countries are likely to become involved in launching these types of satellites.


 

#8 Tom Masterson

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Posted 08 December 2021 - 06:38 PM

It’s far too late. Light pollution is such that probably a majority of humanity has no idea what the night sky should even look like now. Adding in more junk in the sky is minor compared to the awesomeness of faster internet they will think.

Just another brick in the wall.

 

Bingo! You can't miss what you never had. A large part of the population lives in cities.

 

Dark skies are a novelty that is appreciated on vacation much like going to the zoo or an aquarium. They listen to a presentation or read a sign saying how these things need protection and preservation, think yeah, they do, then everyone piles in the car heads back home, and that's the end of it. Besides, what's cooler than internet anywhere you want to go? The sky could be full of bright space-billboards and most people would think they're cool.

 

Anyone here miss the Dodo bird? Show of hands??? Anyone??? Yeah, it's like that.


 

#9 skysurfer

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Posted 11 December 2021 - 03:06 AM

It’s far too late. Light pollution is such that probably a majority of humanity has no idea what the night sky should even look like now. Adding in more junk in the sky is minor compared to the awesomeness of faster internet they will think.

Just another brick in the wall.

The problem is now: the world is overpopulated, we are generating lots of (plastic) waste, companies like Microsoft and Google make us dependant on their so-called 'cloud' services which I don't use. These services are the major force behind the satellite constellations.

There is way too much lighting. Air pollution by particulate matter and NOx is still a big problem. We are using too much fossil fuel. This all costs lots of energy and resources and are heating up the world.

Is this 'progress' ?


Edited by skysurfer, 11 December 2021 - 03:07 AM.

 

#10 LDW47

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Posted 11 December 2021 - 09:59 AM

Bingo! You can't miss what you never had. A large part of the population lives in cities.

 

Dark skies are a novelty that is appreciated on vacation much like going to the zoo or an aquarium. They listen to a presentation or read a sign saying how these things need protection and preservation, think yeah, they do, then everyone piles in the car heads back home, and that's the end of it. Besides, what's cooler than internet anywhere you want to go? The sky could be full of bright space-billboards and most people would think they're cool.

 

Anyone here miss the Dodo bird? Show of hands??? Anyone??? Yeah, it's like that.

Don't forget the Passenger Pigeon !


 

#11 LDW47

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Posted 11 December 2021 - 10:14 AM

One more time, ' Live For Today ' because tommorrow may never come. We said that back in the 60's, it hasn't changed.  PS :  And also ' Every Cloud has a Silver Lining ' came before that.


 

#12 csa/montana

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Posted 11 December 2021 - 11:14 AM

Folks, please let's stay on topic; discussion of satellites affecting the night skies.   Discussing a wide variety, such as "over population", etc., is not what this forum is for.  


 

#13 Matt_Lily

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 10:41 AM

It irks me that any billionaire can launch anything they want into orbit and get rubber stamp approval from any governing agency. Especially satellite internet constellations, where I would believe the majority potential customers in remote locations can't even afford an iPad or computer, let alone the cost of the internet service.  I won't rant here (much) about the disturbing (to me at least) trend of relying on the mega wealthy to fund space travel of any kind. 


 

#14 LDW47

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 02:33 PM

And yet Elon wins Time Magazines Man of the Year for his satellites amoungst other achievements !


 

#15 Chucke

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 02:40 PM

I live in a remote location and have 5 computers and an iPad.  My current satellite cinternet onnection is often not much faster than dialup.  A couple of days ago I downloaded the MS update from patch Tuesday.  It took 10 hours.

 

Be careful of your assumptions.


 

#16 LDW47

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 03:26 PM

I live in a remote location and have 5 computers and an iPad.  My current satellite cinternet onnection is often not much faster than dialup.  A couple of days ago I downloaded the MS update from patch Tuesday.  It took 10 hours.

 

Be careful of your assumptions.

Give it time, don't get too excited, wait til its all in place


 

#17 Tangent

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 03:58 PM

Give it time, don't get too excited, wait til its all in place

Real life users are getting up to 200Mb/s with the system, the only question is one of cost and how many users will be on at any one time.


 

#18 LDW47

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 06:32 PM

Real life users are getting up to 200Mb/s with the system, the only question is one of cost and how many users will be on at any one time.

With an undertaking this big don't you think the proponents have that all figured out ie. reasonable costs, fast service, user capacity etc., etc. Do you think they want something like this to flop ??


 

#19 Chucke

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 08:16 PM

I actually have Hughsnet. It is the only choice out here other than dialup.  Can't wait for Starlink so I can have true broadband or something like it  All of the interesting TV shows are going to streaming services.  Can't do that here.


 

#20 mikemarotta

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 09:03 PM

I admit that it was at the Austin Astronomical Society's dark sky site 80 miles away from Austin that I first saw the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. It was worth the drive. There is no shortage of dark sky for anyone willing to make an effort, invest resources, and put up with some minor inconveniences. That being so, absent the amenities of civilization, daily life 80 miles from a Level One trauma center could be precarious should you break your arm or have a heart attack. Like telescopes, modern hospitals are another product of our industrial economy. What formal logic calls the law of the excluded middle is commonly expressed as, “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”

 

North America.png

Plenty of dark places in North America

 

It is true that amateur astronomers collaborate with professionals. One way is by reviewing the data in computerized “warehouses” of numbers and images. We have more data than university professors can analyze. So, they turn to amateurs. Those hobbyists work from the comfort of their homes, consuming electrical power, and other resources, that also create light pollution.
 

South America.png

No shortage of darkness in South America

 

Amateurs also build their own remote-controlled observatories and monitor the views on high-definition video screens. Those installations are hundreds of miles from their homes where the amateurs enjoy the benefits of civilization.

 

Central Africa.png

Most of Africa is dark

 

We all want clear dark skies full of beautiful bright stars. Backyard astronomers also want telescopes, which are mass-production manufactured items, mostly from China. Even custom-made hobbyist telescopes two feet in diameter costing near $10,000 are built from precision glassware made in China. Backyard astronomers here do not mind if China's skies are polluted.

 

North Korea 2.jpg

North Korea is dark.

 

Other leading edge research in astronomy is performed from orbiting platforms such as the Hubble and Hipparcos satellites. As enthusiasts of space exploration, the backyard astronomers do not complain about the consequences of building giant rockets to carry giant telescopes into orbit. And, in point of fact, those orbiting observatories -- and more to be built even farther out -- are the solution to the problems of light pollution here on Earth and strings of satellites as seen from Earth. 

 

Astronomers also complain about “constellations” of artificial satellites, clusters and strings launched by private companies for communications, natural resource monitoring, economic research, and disaster response. When disaster strikes, we all want our cellphones to bring the responders to our exact locations by GPS. That convenience comes with a cost.


Edited by mikemarotta, 17 December 2021 - 09:13 PM.

 

#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 06:18 AM

I admit that it was at the Austin Astronomical Society's dark sky site 80 miles away from Austin that I first saw the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. It was worth the drive. There is no shortage of dark sky for anyone willing to make an effort, invest resources, and put up with some minor inconveniences.


That's a rather smug attitude. A substantial fraction of all urban Americans don't own cars, cannot afford to travel far by any other means, and in any case have very little time to spare. What's a minor inconvenience to you is a huge hurdle for them.
 

That being so, absent the amenities of civilization, daily life 80 miles from a Level One trauma center could be precarious should you break your arm or have a heart attack. Like telescopes, modern hospitals are another product of our industrial economy. What formal logic calls the law of the excluded middle is commonly expressed as, “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”


A certain amount of light pollution is inevitable, but we have a great deal of control over the degree. If darker skies were a high priority in our society, we could have vastly darker skies without sacrificing anything whatsoever in terms of convenience, safety, and the amenities of civilization. Well-designed streetlights are better than bad ones in every possible way -- better lighting on the ground, much less light spilled unintentionally, and cheaper. And quite a large amount of light pollution is caused by privately owned glare bombs that benefit nobody, least of all their owners.

Cities in Western Europe are generally considerably darker than comparably sized cities in the U.S., and every bit as civilized.


 

#22 LDW47

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 07:12 AM

That's a rather smug attitude. A substantial fraction of all urban Americans don't own cars, cannot afford to travel far by any other means, and in any case have very little time to spare. What's a minor inconvenience to you is a huge hurdle for them.
 


A certain amount of light pollution is inevitable, but we have a great deal of control over the degree. If darker skies were a high priority in our society, we could have vastly darker skies without sacrificing anything whatsoever in terms of convenience, safety, and the amenities of civilization. Well-designed streetlights are better than bad ones in every possible way -- better lighting on the ground, much less light spilled unintentionally, and cheaper. And quite a large amount of light pollution is caused by privately owned glare bombs that benefit nobody, least of all their owners.

Cities in Western Europe are generally considerably darker than comparably sized cities in the U.S., and every bit as civilized.

Well said.


 

#23 LDW47

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 07:19 AM

I admit that it was at the Austin Astronomical Society's dark sky site 80 miles away from Austin that I first saw the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. It was worth the drive. There is no shortage of dark sky for anyone willing to make an effort, invest resources, and put up with some minor inconveniences. That being so, absent the amenities of civilization, daily life 80 miles from a Level One trauma center could be precarious should you break your arm or have a heart attack. Like telescopes, modern hospitals are another product of our industrial economy. What formal logic calls the law of the excluded middle is commonly expressed as, “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”

 

attachicon.gifNorth America.png

Plenty of dark places in North America

 

It is true that amateur astronomers collaborate with professionals. One way is by reviewing the data in computerized “warehouses” of numbers and images. We have more data than university professors can analyze. So, they turn to amateurs. Those hobbyists work from the comfort of their homes, consuming electrical power, and other resources, that also create light pollution.
 

attachicon.gifSouth America.png

No shortage of darkness in South America

 

Amateurs also build their own remote-controlled observatories and monitor the views on high-definition video screens. Those installations are hundreds of miles from their homes where the amateurs enjoy the benefits of civilization.

 

attachicon.gifCentral Africa.png

Most of Africa is dark

 

We all want clear dark skies full of beautiful bright stars. Backyard astronomers also want telescopes, which are mass-production manufactured items, mostly from China. Even custom-made hobbyist telescopes two feet in diameter costing near $10,000 are built from precision glassware made in China. Backyard astronomers here do not mind if China's skies are polluted.

 

attachicon.gifNorth Korea 2.jpg

North Korea is dark.

 

Other leading edge research in astronomy is performed from orbiting platforms such as the Hubble and Hipparcos satellites. As enthusiasts of space exploration, the backyard astronomers do not complain about the consequences of building giant rockets to carry giant telescopes into orbit. And, in point of fact, those orbiting observatories -- and more to be built even farther out -- are the solution to the problems of light pollution here on Earth and strings of satellites as seen from Earth. 

 

Astronomers also complain about “constellations” of artificial satellites, clusters and strings launched by private companies for communications, natural resource monitoring, economic research, and disaster response. When disaster strikes, we all want our cellphones to bring the responders to our exact locations by GPS. That convenience comes with a cost.

Its the good old cake, as you mention, both hands full.  People in general, astronomers in particular want it all but don't want to give anything up. I'm afraid thats not how it works, most times.


Edited by LDW47, 18 December 2021 - 11:38 AM.

 

#24 mikemarotta

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 09:49 AM

That's a rather smug attitude. A substantial fraction of all urban Americans don't own cars, cannot afford to travel far by any other means, and in any case have very little time to spare. What's a minor inconvenience to you is a huge hurdle for them.
 


A certain amount of light pollution is inevitable, but we have a great deal of control over the degree. If darker skies were a high priority in our society, we could have vastly darker skies without sacrificing anything whatsoever in terms of convenience, safety, and the amenities of civilization. Well-designed streetlights are better than bad ones in every possible way -- better lighting on the ground, much less light spilled unintentionally, and cheaper. And quite a large amount of light pollution is caused by privately owned glare bombs that benefit nobody, least of all their owners.

Cities in Western Europe are generally considerably darker than comparably sized cities in the U.S., and every bit as civilized.

 

(1) Astronomy is our hobby, our passion. Last year, I sought out amateur microscopists. In fact, my first summer job in high school was in a hospital cytogenetics lab where I first used a binocular microscope. Those are common hobbyist goods today. And microscopes work all the time, revealing the hidden structures of plants, animals, and minerals. And as useful as astronomy could be in fact life sciences benefit us all  very much more. Maybe we need to change our point of view on how to "get kids excited about science."

 

I grew up one mile from the steel mills of Cleveland. I never saw many stars. That's what the planetarium was for. And I took two buses to get there. My family cared about my education. Deprivation is as much a personal choice as a social fact. My MA is in social science. 

 

(2) I agree that we have a problem with pollution and always have. It is because we do not have good understanding of property rights. We still have medieval ideas about land being the only real estate. Our intellectual property laws are truly medieval. So, too, with common overflows of refuse. My ex is a borough mayor and was telling me about the fact that in the East, they have always let storm water and sewage flow into the rivers down to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico. Now, it is very costly to fix. That was a consequence of poor understanding of property rights. Here in the West, commonly, you do not have the right to deprive people downstream of good water because you do not own the cows downstream. That is closer to a better answer.

 

As I said on my blog (where my first response came from):  
 

We do not have the same perceptions with light that we do with sound. You can close your eyes. You cannot close your ears. So, we have laws against noise. We do need a rational theory of law to address noisy light. But not all light is pollution, any more than all noise is bad. After all, most people enjoy the sound of children playing and most so-called “light pollution” is equally benign.

 

I am not insensitive to the problem. I believe that a correct political analysis begins with considerations of property rights. A couple of years ago, I wanted to arrange the loan of a large hobby telescope to a co-worker who recently moved into a rural area. Sadly, he declined the offer because his neighbor had just installed a security light, a mercury-vapor spotlight that illuminated her land, his, and much else. If the light waves were sound waves, she would be blasting rock ‘n’ roll at 2:00 AM. That is a problem that is easy to understand and any number of local ordinances (if not common sense and common courtesy) would put a stop to it.

https://necessaryfac...dark-skies.html

 

 

 

The basic mistake is for "all of us" to make a "common decision" that will benefit "everyone." The problem with satellites, in particular, was the declaration that outer space belongs to all humanity to share equally. Communist thinking is a known failure mode and yet we are loathe to give it up. The tribe is deep within our genes. Nonetheless, long ago, some simian got the new idea that she/he could survive apart from the tribe. In fact, social biologists know that the "gamma" is the individual that moves among gene pools. Neither an alpha leader nor a beta follower, the gamma is the genetic individualist. Among social animals, the gammas mitigate in-breeding. America was settled by Europeans who were gammas. We left our conformist cousins back home, Even many of the Africans who were sold into slavery were gammas whom their own tribal leaders got rid of. Australia is another example of the dregs of one society becoming the makers of another.  (See my article, "Mary Reiby: Australia's Pioneer Woman Capitalist."

 

What we need to solve the problem of "too many satellites" is good property law based on individual rights and motivated by profit from investment. Right now, even when we think of property, we have the medieval concept of land as the only "real" estate. Landlords are the seamy underside of capitalism: they do not build the land or invent the structures on it; they just buy and hold. What we need for outer space is a mindset of development, exploitation, and growth for future profit. 


Edited by mikemarotta, 18 December 2021 - 09:52 AM.

 

#25 mikemarotta

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 10:13 AM

Its the good old cake, as you mention, both hands full.  People in general, astronomers in particular want it all but don't want to give anything up. I'm afraid thats not how it works, mst times.

Without stretching the analogy, the solution is to bake more cakes. In other words, we need a way of thinking that encourages growth and development of orbital lanes. 

 

One analogy for that is the development of the radio spectrum. In an essay on "The Property Status of the Airwaves" reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand gave a cogent analysis of how the government can operate to support and encourage the development of new property. It was good as far as it went. The basic principles were correct but she did not know enough electronics to foresee the next development of frequency sharing. Choppers allow that and messages (information) can be interleaved.  So, too, with orbital space. 

 

Geostationary space allows orbits to be shared because orbital dynamics of central force motion constrain the locations. But perturbations are real. Not only does the solar wind affect objects in orbit, but close the Earth, our planet's own irregular geography is a reality to be reckoned. The atmosphere does not have a hard line border. The magnetic field dances. So, the basic concepts of property rights have to be applied to a highly dynamic context.

 

For the farther future, I see a time when pioneers are happy to sweep the orbital lanes for unclaimed junk. Every gram of processed metal and plastic will be highly valued.


 


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