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How can sunlight reflecting off SpaceX’s Starlink satellites interfere with ground-based operations? This is what a recently submitted study hopes to address as a pair of researchers investigate how Starlink satellites appear brighter—which the researchers also refer to as flaring—to observers on Earth when the Sun is at certain angles, along with discussing past incidents of how this brightness has influenced aerial operations on Earth, as well. This study holds the potential to help spacecraft manufacturers design and develop specific methods to prevent increased brightness levels, which would help alleviate confusion for observers on Earth regarding the source of the brightness and the objects in question.

Here, Universe Today discusses this research with Anthony Mallama of the IAU – Centre for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Skies from Satellite Constellation Interference regarding the motivation behind the study, significant results, potential follow-up studies, importance of studying Starlink satellite brightness, and implications for managing satellite constellations in the future. So, what was the motivation behind this study?

“I study the brightness of Starlink satellites under all circumstances,” Mallama tells Universe Today. “That includes their operational phase at 550 km [342 mi] altitude, when they are rising from the initial orbit around 300 km [186 mi] to operation height, ordinary flares which occur frequently but have small amplitudes and these extreme flares.”

For the study, the researchers conducted a geometrical analysis of the brightness of Starlink satellites based on the Sun’s location and angle in the sky. This comes despite SpaceX taking steps to mitigate reflectivity off Starlink satellites, which only decreases reflectivity when the satellites are directly overhead. The study also discussed how reflectivity from Starlink satellites has affected aerial operations, specifically with commercial airline pilots. Therefore, what were the most significant results from this study?

Mallama tells Universe Today, “This study demonstrated that Starlinks can be exceedingly bright under certain conditions. In one instance they were reported as Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) by pilots on two commercial aircraft.”

Regarding potential follow-up studies, Mallama tells Universe Today, “I am characterizing the brightness of other satellite constellations including Amazon’s Kuiper, AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker/BlueBirds and Planet’s Pelicans.”

The study mentions how the UAP incidents occurred in 2022 and was recently discussed in Buettner et al (2024) with the pilots’ reporting brightness magnitudes (also called stellar magnitude or apparent magnitude) of -4 to -5. For context, a stellar magnitude of -5 is equivalent to the planet Venus at its brightest, which is known for being observed before sunrise or after sunset periodically throughout the year. The apparent magnitude scale ranges from -30 to 30 with higher numbers corresponding to decreasing brightness.

Buettner et al (2024) was recently presented at the 4th IAA Conference on Space Situational Awareness (ICSSA). That paper discussed how the incident occurred on August 10, 2022, and was observed by five pilots aboard two separate commercial airline flights over the Pacific Ocean, which resulted in two photographs obtained by the pilot’s cell phones. After analyzing a series of simulations and additional data, the researchers determined these UAPs were Starlink satellites launched earlier that day, which was designated as Starlink Group 4-26. Given this incident, what is the importance of studying Starlink brightness/flaring?

Mallama tells Universe Today, “The importance of studying Starlink brightness is that the satellites interfere with astronomical research if they are brighter than magnitude 7. Furthermore, casual sky watchers, such as amateur astronomers and naturalists, are distracted by those brighter than magnitude 6 because they are visible to the unaided eye.”

This study comes as SpaceX’s Starlink constellation continues to grow on a regular basis, with the number of current Starlink satellites in orbit have reached more than 5,600 with almost 6,000 having been launched by SpaceX as of this writing. As noted by both the study and Mallama, sunlight reflectivity off Starlink satellites causes issues with both aerial operations on Earth and astronomical observing, with Mallama also conducting research on satellite constellation brightness for Amazon, AST SpaceMobile, and Planet Labs. Therefore, with the number of satellites in orbit rapidly increasing due to constellations, what implications could this study have on managing satellite constellations in the future?

Mallama tells Universe Today, “One approach to reducing satellite brightness is to reflect sunlight into space rather than allowing it to scatter diffusively toward
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10 Great, Big Dayhikes in the Tetons

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By Michael Lanza

The Tetons stand out for many reasons, most of all that iconic skyline of jagged peaks and spires that invites comparisons to cathedrals—although these cathedrals reach over 12,000 and 13,000 feet high. But while backpackers flock to the Teton Range for multi-day hikes and these peaks offer numerous five-star dayhikes of “normal” length, they also harbor some of the best long dayhikes in the country.

Thanks to a unique combination of the trail network and trailhead access, hikers capable of knocking off 15 to 20 or more miles and 3,000 to over 4,000 vertical feet in a day can explore virtually the entire range on one-day outings—holding enormous appeal for hikers and trail runners seeking that level of challenge or fit backpackers who fail to obtain a highly coveted Grand Teton National Park backcountry permit for a multi-day hike.

This list of the 10 best big dayhikes in the Teton Range includes popular spots like Garnet Canyon, Lake Solitude, and the Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon loop, as well as some trails and peaks you may not have heard of—some of which see little traffic.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Teton Crest Trail n Grand Teton National Park. Click photo for my e-book “The Complete Guide to Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?fit=300%2C203&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?fit=900%2C608&ssl=1″ tabindex=”0″ role=”button” src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P.-1024×692.jpg?resize=900%2C608&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.” class=”wp-image-36371″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg 1080w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06231551/Tet19-110-Tet19-107-Jeff-Wilhelm-backpacking-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-through-North-Fork-Cascade-Canyon-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Teton Crest Trail n Grand Teton National Park. Click photo for my e-book “The Complete
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Galaxies Regulate their Own Growth so they Don’t Run Out of Star Forming Gas

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Look at most spiral or barred spiral galaxies and you will see multiple regions where stars are forming. These star forming regions are comprised of mostly hydrogen gas with a few other elements for good measure. The first galaxies in the Universe had huge supplies of this star forming gas. Left unchecked they could have burned through the gas quickly, generating enormous amounts of star formation. Life fast though and die young for such an energetic burst of star formation would soon fizzle out leaving behind dead and dying stars. In some way it seems, galaxies seem to regulate their star formation thanks to supermassive black holes at their centre. 

The first galaxies formed about 400 to 700 million years after the Big Bang, during the Epoch known as Reionization. These early galaxies were small and faint, mostly composed of hydrogen and helium, and contained dense clusters of massive, short-lived Population III stars (the first generation of stars.) The intense radiation from these stars ionised the surrounding gas, clearing the fog that permeated space making the universe transparent for the first time. These primordial galaxies began merging and interacting, laying the foundation for the galaxy types seen today.

A new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society explores why galaxies are not as large as astronomers would expect. The research suggests that galaxies, even those that formed first, avoid an early death because they have mechanisms similar to “heart and lungs,” which regulate their “breathing”. Without these regulatory processes our bodies, and galaxies would have aged much faster, resulting in massive galaxies filled with dead and dying stars and devoid of new star formation.

Observations show that galaxies are not so big and full of dying stars having outgrown themselves. It seems something limits their ability to allow gas to form into stars. Astrophysicists at the University of Kent believe they may have the answer: galaxies could be controlling their growth rate through a process not too dissimilar to “breathing.” They compare the supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy to a heart and the supersonic jets emerging from the poles with the radiation and gas they emit to airways feeding a pair of lungs.

The supermassive black holes seem to pulse just like a heart. These pulses cause a shock front to oscillate along the jets like a diaphragm inflating and deflating the lungs. This process transmits energy along the jet slowly counteracting the pull of gravity and slowing gas accretion and star formation. The idea was developed by PhD student Carl Richards and his simulations showed a black hole pulsing like a heart. 

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Assisted by magnetic fields, a spiraling wind helps the supermassive black hole in galaxy ESO320-G030 grow. In this illustration, the core of the galaxy is dominated by a rotating wind of dense gas leading outwards from the (hidden) supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. The motions of the gas, traced by light from molecules of hydrogen cyanide, have been measured with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Image credit: M. D. Gorski/Aaron M. Geller, Northwestern University, CIERA, the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.

Richards explains “We realised that there would have to be some means for the jets to support the body – the galaxy’s surrounding ambient gas – and that is what we discovered in our computer simulations,” He continued “The unexpected behaviour was revealed when we analysed the computer simulations of high pressure and allowed the heart to pulse.”

Evidence of ripples just like those in Richards’ simulations, in extra-galactic media have been found in galaxy clusters like the Perseus cluster. These ripples are thought to sustain a galaxy’s environment, though their generation mechanism was unclear. Conventional simulations fail to explain gas flows into galaxies, but the work of the team from the University of Kent may well have answered the question.

Source : How the ‘heart and lungs’ of a galaxy extend its life.

The post Galaxies Regulate their Own Growth so they Don’t Run Out of Star Forming Gas appeared first on Universe Today.

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Bear Essentials: How to Store Food When Backcountry Camping

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By Michael Lanza

On our first night in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park on one of my earliest backpacking trips, two friends and I—all complete novices—hung our food from a tree branch near our camp. Unfortunately, the conifer trees around us all had short branches: Our food stuff sacks hung close to the trunk.

During the night, the predictable happened: We awoke to the sound of a black bear clawing up the tree after our food.

Despite our nervousness and incompetence, we somehow managed to shoo that black bear off, though not before he (or she) departed with a respectable haul from our food supply. But by virtue of having started out with way more food than we needed—another rookie mistake that, ironically, compensated for this more-serious rookie mistake (read my tips on not overpacking)—we made it through that hike without going hungry and ultimately had a wonderful adventure.

And we went home with a valuable lesson learned.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A black bear along the Sol Duc River Trail in Olympic National Park.
” data-image-caption=”A black bear along the Sol Duc River Trail in Olympic National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg?fit=300%2C201&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg?fit=900%2C602&ssl=1″ tabindex=”0″ role=”button” src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2-1024×685.jpg?resize=900%2C602&ssl=1″ alt=”A black bear along the Sol Duc River Trail in Olympic National Park.” class=”wp-image-34782″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg 1080w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/06232206/Olym6-070-Black-bear-Sol-Duc-River-Trail-Olympic-NP-WA-2.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />A black bear along the Sol Duc River Trail in Olympic National Park.

I’ve learned much more about storing food properly in the backcountry over the more than three decades since that early trip, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. This article shares what I’ve learned about protecting food from critters like bears and, more commonly, mice and other small animals and some birds like ravens.

Follow the tips below and you’ll not only save yourself and your party or family from going hungry, you might save a bear from developing a habit of seeing humans as sources of food, which too often leads to a bad outcome for that animal.

If you have any questions or tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments section at the bottom of this
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