The 2,440th Meeting of the Society

May 7, 2021 at 8:00 PM

Zoom Webinar

Satellite Constellations and Astronomy

Satellite Interference with Astronomical Observations and Potential Remedies

Tony Tyson

Distinguished Professor of Astronomy - UC Davis
Chief Scientist at The Rubin Observatory

About the Lecture

A number of companies and governments are in various stages of planning or deploying bright satellites in low-Earth orbit in unprecedentedly large numbers.  These “mega constellations” will fundamentally change astronomical observing at visible wavelengths.  Night-time images will be contaminated by streaks due to the passage of sun-illuminated satellites, and radio astronomy will experience significant interference.

If the proposals for the most serious constellations are realized, no combination of mitigations will be able to fully avoid the negative impacts that the over 50,000 satellites will have on many science programs of current and planned ground-based and space-based astronomy facilities.  This lecture will discuss the Rubin Observatory’s planned Legacy Survey of Space and Time, satellite streak simulations, lab tests of the Rubin’s CCD sensors, and work with SpaceX on mitigation.

Bibliography

(1)  Mitigation of LEO Satellite Brightness and Trail Effects on the Rubin Observatory LSST,  J. A. Tyson et al., The Astronomical Journal, Volume 160, Issue 5, id.226 (2020); and https://arxiv.org/abs/2006.12417

(2)  Dark Skies and Bright Satellites, Anthony Tyson and Joel Parriott, Science  25 Sep 2020: Vol. 369, Issue 6511, pp. 154

About the Speaker

Tony Tyson is Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Davis.  Before that, he worked for 35 years at Bell Labs in the physics division.

While applying CCDs to astronomy in the early 1980’s he discovered a population of faint blue galaxies, and then pioneered the field of weak gravitational lensing, creating maps of dark matter using the gravitational mirage of these distant galaxies.  His current research is in cosmology: the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

He has led an international effort to build a new kind of telescope/camera called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, recently renamed the Vera Rubin Observatory.  Its Legacy Survey of Space and Time will begin in 2024. He was director from 2003-2013 and is now Chief Scientist.

Tony is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

He earned a BS in Physics at Stanford and a PhD in condensed matter physics at the University of Wisconsin.

Highlights