A previously unknown phenomenon in the orbit of our planet.  Where does radiation come from?

An international research team decided to explore this problem using the LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope. We can now read the results of the cosmic investigation in the pages Astronomy and astrophysics. The main conclusion of the aforementioned post is that SpaceX satellites produce electromagnetic radiation that has not been taken into account before. In total, 68 such objects were observed, and the source of the detected signals was the on-board electronics. The information collected is of particular interest due to the fact that such emissions can have a very large impact on space observations.

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Radio telescopes can get interference, which has happened in the past. Imagine a scenario where astronomers pick up signals from space and assume it’s a groundbreaking discovery, only to realize over time that it’s an emission from Earth’s orbit. Therefore, constellations from satellites like Starlink can negatively affect not only optical observations, but also radio observations.

Of course, these towers also have some advantages, for example in the form of the possibility of providing Internet to remote areas. However, a balance must be struck and care must be taken to ensure that the development of satellite technology does not bury years of efforts by astronomers to understand the universe as best as possible. What’s more, as new research shows, there are more sources of potential interference than expected.

While transmission between satellites and Earth (and vice versa) has turned out to be the main problem so far, thanks to the research team’s findings, we know that the electronics on the aircraft itself can cause difficulties. Moreover, complications do not come only from equipment belonging to SpaceX – there were simply most of this company’s satellites in orbit at the time of the analysis.

It turns out that the electromagnetic radiation that can interfere with radio telescopes comes from satellites in Earth’s orbit

What are the exact results of the experiments conducted? First of all, LOFAR detected radiation in the range of 110 to 188 MHz from 47 satellites. With a total of 68 notes included, that’s pretty high. Whenever the protected band is at risk, it was established by the International Telecommunication Union and covers frequencies from 150.05 to 153MHz. The problem is that the guidelines apply to ground equipment, not orbiting satellites.

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As if this were not enough, simulations have shown that an increasing number of constellations will intensify this negative phenomenon. The complications are already evident and will only get worse with thousands more satellites planned. The key should be getting companies like SpaceX to change their operations and introduce regulations that limit this type of practice.

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