Some astronomers propose establishing a “SatHub” to combat the increasing concern that satellite megaconstellations present to the night sky, but this will require finance and support. According to team members, the primary purpose of the multinational SatHub program would be to implement and adapt monitoring programs as additional satellites are launched. Training, outreach, and analysis of low-Earth-orbit satellites for the general public would be a secondary purpose.
SatHub was among the primary suggestions from a recent workshop titled Satellite Constellations 2 (SATCON2), which sought to determine how astronomers may effectively perform observations in the midst of rapidly increasing satellite numbers. (At the workshop, some satellite companies were also present.) “That may involve a submission to the IAU (International Astronomical Union),” Connie Walker, SATCON2 co-chair, stated of the SatHub concept during a preliminary news briefing on July 16. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is among the world’s largest organizations uniting astronomy and astronomers’ interests.
Walker, a scientist with the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, adding, “They have a call that just went out on such a facility, so stay tuned for more on that.” Proposals are submitted to the IAU on September 10th, and discussions are expected to last until at least the completion of 2021, according to representatives at the workshop. They did not provide a timeframe for when SatHub would be accessible, although it would most likely be contingent on funding.
According to Meredith Rawls, companies that launch satellites into space should pay money toward the center, who works at the University of Washington as a research scientist who served as the SATCON2 observations working committee chair. During the news conference, Rawls stated, “The objective here is to have a one-stop-shop for all of your diverse needs connected to the low Earth orbit satellite constellation observations.” “We’d like to be ahead of this by having a single landing spot for all of these diverse observations and related studies to land, rather than recreating the wheel by having dozens of discrete siloed groups fixing the issue.”
As per a media release from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and NOIRLab, which collectively organized the workshop, the workshop’s three goals were to figure out what was needed to execute the previous recommendations from SATCON1 in 2020, to have satellite operators and astronomers collaborate on policy frameworks and strategies, and to broaden the diversity of all stakeholders.
The effects on satellite megaconstellations’ astronomy in the low Earth orbit “are approximated to range from insignificant to extreme,” according to a report produced by SATCON1 participants last year. All-sky survey telescopes which rely on long light exposures free of interference will be the most affected, the report concluded.