With the increasing number of satellites launched by many countries and private companies over the past years, the interest of astronomers in monitoring and studying the negative impact of these satellites on ground-based astronomical observations has increased.
In a new scientific study, an international research team concluded that satellites pose a major challenge to astronomy. As it negatively affects the process of ground-based astronomical observation, the results of the study were published earlier this month in the journal “Nature.”
In a statement to Al Jazeera Net, Professor Zuhair Bin Khaldoun, Director of the Oukaimeden Astronomical Observatory in Morocco, who participated in the study, said, “This study is linked to the largest artificial satellite (Blue Walker 3) in terms of size and brightness, and its orbit is in an orbit close to the Earth, and for this reason it reflects light.” The sun is strongly visible, and this reflection affects observing the sky in general, and observing celestial bodies that are of interest to researchers in astronomy.”
The new study, which took a year, comes within the framework of international monitoring carried out by a group of international observatories within the satellite monitoring and monitoring programme, supervised by the International Astronomical Union, around the “Blue Walker 3” satellite, which is one of the largest satellites placed in low, near-Earth orbit. It is one of the brightest moons.
Zuhair bin Khaldun says in this context, “The importance of observing satellites for astronomical observers is evident in knowing the impact of these satellites on astronomical observation, knowing the negative impact in order to avoid it on the one hand, and inventing methods to process the images that satellites affect, and on the other hand we can create A strong pressure on companies that send satellites to be wary of this negative impact on astronomical observation by inventing ways to build their satellites, and to avoid placing them in orbits where they could have an impact on astronomical observation.
According to the research team, the new scientific study represents an important database that researchers can refer to to obtain technical information about the satellite that was monitored, “Blue Walker 3,” and how it is monitored from the Earth and the measurements made by the research team, as well as knowledge of the hypotheses and theories that can be used regarding the satellites. The satellite is programmed to be sent to the same orbit where the Blue Walker 3 satellite is located.
Researchers from the Oukaimeden Astronomical Observatory of Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco participated in this international observation, in terms of monitoring by using the scenes in the observatory. The satellite was monitored since it was launched into orbit on September 10, 2023, and the research team accumulated a database using two telescopes, and also contributed in terms of studying and analyzing the data it obtained at the observatory, and by astronomical observatories located in Hawaii, America, and Spain.
Zuhair bin Khaldoun pointed out that the Oukaimeden Observatory has been working on monitoring satellites for 5 years, in partnership with international research teams and with the private sector, which funds research related to monitoring satellites and space debris.
More research in the future
The research team presented detailed results about monitoring the “Blue Walker 3” satellite in the study published in the journal “Nature,” and Zuhair bin Khaldun says that the most important thing that can be pointed out to the general public is that the satellite that was monitored exceeded the limits set by the International Astronomical Union. In terms of the strength of the luminosity, so is the field in which it rotates.
The study also indicated what is expected for this type of satellite monitoring program, and the negative impact it could have on astronomical observation.
According to Zuhair, “Among the challenges that the research team faced in reaching these results is that the sky during observation must be clear, because weather data is important, and fortunately we were able to monitor the satellite in the required period, and we dealt with the challenge of accuracy in determining the location of the satellite.” “As well as the readiness of researchers to monitor at the required time.”
The research team’s research in Morocco was funded by Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco, within the framework of research carried out by the High Energy and Astronomy Laboratory at the Semlalia Faculty of Sciences in Marrakesh. As for external funding, it was provided by the research partners and by the private companies that finance this research.
Zuhair bin Khaldoun ends his speech to Al Jazeera Net by saying, “With regard to the future of research on the “Blue Walker 3” satellite, we are still monitoring it to know its orbit and how it develops and to know how its brightness develops. It is also necessary to monitor and track future generations of satellites to know their impact on astronomical observation. Therefore, we formed a specialized scientific team at Cadi Ayyad University in this field, to track satellites and space debris.”