Starlink project could cause problems for SKA telescope

Date:14 January 2021 Author: Leila Stein

An impact analysis found that South Africa’s SKA telescope will be severely affected by Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites.

The Starlink network of satellites has brought up concerns from many in the scientific community, as it is feared the significant amount will block telescopes and views of space from Earth.

Musk is planning to set up a network of 42,000 satellites in total, although he has insisted this will not interfere with hardware on the ground.

“… Starlink won’t be seen by anyone unless looking very carefully and will have ~0% impact on advancements in astronomy,” he confirmed in a statement.

The report into the effects found that the spectrum used by Starlkin and the SKA telescope is the same.

This is a problem as SKA needs minimal interference from radio signals to operate. This is why it’s built all the way out in the Northern Cape. This is a Radio Quiet Zone with no interference from cellphones and Wi-Fi.

“There is tremendous scientific and public interest in identifying the origins of life beyond that found on Earth and one of the most promising methods of tracking it down elsewhere in our Galaxy is the detection of complex pre-biotic molecules, whose spectral signatures are concentrated between about 10 and 15 GHz,” said Dr Robert Braun, SKA Science Director, in a statement.

“This is only one of many exciting science goals that depend on sensitive access to this frequency range. The prospect of losing sensitivity in this key frequency band is extremely worrying.”

The satellites will act as fast-moving radio sources which then defeat the purpose of the SKA entirely. In addition, South Africa was able to mark out the area where the telescope sits but it has no way of controlling the paths of the Starlkin satellites.

 

Picture: SKA Organisation

 

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