Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO, has stated that several steps will be taken to reduce the impact caused by Starkli satellite on astronomical research. Musk has stated in the past that the project will have no influence over the work of researchers, but experts haven’t been very happy.
A new set of Starlink satellites has been launched on March 18. It is the fourth set launched in 2020 and the sixth one that has been launched since the project started. At this point, 326 Starlink satellites have reached the desired orbit.
Astronomers have been against the initiative since the first batch of satellites was launched in May 2019. After the satellites started to orbit, astronomers discovered that they are considerably brighter than expected, and worry that future research will be compromised by unwanted light pollution.
Darkening A SpaceX Starlink Satellite Was Successful
To avoid more controversies, SpaceX decided to develop a series of experimental satellites that have been darkened, with the aim to reduce their reflectivity. According to SpaceX, the initial results are quite positive. It appears that the company is also working on other possible implementations that could reduce the reflectivity.
One of them involves the use of a sunshade that could be deployed in a fashion similar to a patio umbrella. It will be tested in the course of a future mission, but more details remain elusive for now.
Despite the announcement made by SpaceX, it seems that researchers don’t seem to be impressed. A study conducted with the help of a telescope located in Chile has mentioned that while DarkSat units are up to 55% less bright in comparison to their regular counterparts but still too bright, according to many researchers.
A lead scientist from the Vera Rubin Observatory has stated that the team ran some simulations and concluded that the Starlink satellites would produce bright streaks and other visual artifacts that could hamper future observations.