Iridium Flares Vs Starlink Flares

For a long time now, we’ve been accustomed to watching Iridium “Flares” in the night sky as the iridium communication satellites reflect sunlight off of their antennae at an angle directed toward Earth. The “flare” lasts only seconds, and covers a very limited “path” across the face of the Earth. So, being in the right place at the right time was critical to seeing one.

The iridium satellites are being replaced by new communication satellites, named Starlink. On May 23rd, Space X launched 60 satellites (all at the same time), the first installment of a total of about 12,000. As the iridium flares were “naked eye” visible, so are the Starlink flares. The flares are the result of Sunlight being reflected off of flat Earth-facing surfaces, as were the iridium flares. But there is a difference. At this time, there is a “lead” satellite and “trailing” satellites. The resulting flares, appear as a single track followed by a number of other simultaneous tracks. The photo below shows a sighting from the Netherlands.

One of the purposes of the new satellites is to provide broadband internet world-wide. Sounds good, right? Well, that’s one good thing. However, imagine taking a time exposure of some deep sky object, and ending up with “satellite streaks” across the frame. I mean, 12,000 satellites are a lot.

Well, here it is: Starlink streak pollution. An amateur astronomer captured a supernova in Galaxy NGC5353 (left side below). Astronomers at the Lowell Observatory trying to study the same supernova, photographed (tried to photograph) the supernova for light curve study. Here’s what they got (right side):

This type of supernova supplies information useful in determining the rate of expansion of the universe (when it can be photographed). Is this what we can expect astro photos to look like? The IAU (International Astronomical Union) is calling for some kind of regulation to lessen the possibility of this becoming a disaster for astronomy.

If you’re interested, you can see the “flyby” predictions at Happy viewing.

Send Your Name to Mars

Remember when NASA was taking names to put on a chip to put on the Parker Solar Probe to send to the Sun? If you sent your name in, it has gone through the Sun’s corona two times as of this date.

Well, now they’re taking names to go to Mars. Names will be etched on a silicon chip and placed on the Mars rover, which is, as of now, planned for a possible July, 2020 launch date from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and land on Mars in February, 2021.

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points.

This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles are awarded for each “flight,” with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles. From now until Sept. 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars at: https://go.nasa.go

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions in preparation for human exploration of the Red Planet. Another step in that direction is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. The project is a cooperation of government, industry and international partners in an effort to build
and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond. Don’t wait, be sure to get a good seat.