BlueWalker 3 is a prototype of a network of satellites intended to enable mobile phone traffic through space. This requires a large antenna that reflects sunlight and thus acts as a large mirror. From Earth it looks like a very bright star. The company behind the satellites, AST SpaceMobile, eventually wants to put two hundred of these satellites into orbit. The next launch should take place next year.
Astronomers from TU Delft, among others, recently made measurements of the satellite and concluded that it is brighter than previously thought. Only seven stars shine (slightly) brighter than BlueWalker 3. Researchers published Their findings are in nature.
One of these bright stars might not be so bad, but that would change if there were two hundred, says Marco Langbroek, one of the researchers. “Then bright objects will move regularly across the sky. This changes the appearance of the starry sky.”
In addition, it is also annoying to astronomers. “You don’t want such a satellite to move completely across the telescope’s field of view when making observations. There is often very sensitive equipment behind it, which is simply blinded by such a bright object.”
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