back to article Starlink opens final frontier for radio astronomers

There isn’t an astronomer on the planet who isn’t in two minds about modern technology. The same advances in material science, computers and radio technology that have given humanity spectacular new views of the universe also clutter the skies and deafen the radio bands with swarms of noisy, shiny, satellites. Now, though, the …

  1. ThatOne Silver badge
    Flame

    Sorry but no.

    Sorry, but GO-LoW and Starlink have little to nothing in common, except maybe that they use large groups of satellites: L4 and L5 are about a sixth of earth's orbit away, so anything you put there won't really change much for the people down here. Let those satellites slug it out with 2010 TK7 and (614689) 2020 XL5 for the best spot in L4...

    Starlink is and remains a menace to astronomy, not in any way a boon! Titles like "Starlink opens final frontier for radio astronomers" are just weaselly Starlink propaganda.

    Musk-eteers, start downvoting...

    1. xyz Silver badge

      Re: Sorry but no.

      A musketeer writes (via Starlink)... Look El Musco may be battier than a sack of frogs, dogs and snakes, but at least Starlink works for us scum in the hinterlands (BTW, I spent most of last night chasing wild boar with an axe) where I'm trying to IoT cows to the internet. Most people on the planet, don't have the luxury of electricity or wifi or mobile signal (or showers) and need something to be modern with. I'm sorry you can't see Venus or whatever due to assorted tin cans wafting about low orbit but I and many others have no option. If you want to moan at anyone get the mobile companies by the scrotum.

      1. Christoph

        Re: Sorry but no.

        "I'm sorry you can't see Venus or whatever due to assorted tin cans wafting about low orbit"

        If you obstruct my view of Venus you will face my Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator!

        1. Fabrizio
          Happy

          RE: Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator

          +1 just for mentioning Marvin the Martian's Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator!

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but no.

        Last I heard Starlink was pretty well overloaded by glampers with $100,000 RVs and Musk fans who could get terrestrial service but want that shiny, shiny dish. I'm not sure how many rural people are really benefiting.

        1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Sorry but no.

          I've no idea what you've read, but Starlink continues to work very, very well indeed out here in rural Wales.

          GJC

        2. Hoito

          Re: Sorry but no.

          SO... I take it you do NOT live in a rural area where getting high speed internet is NOT an option - except from Starlink or Explornet...

          The internet as changed to the point where - highspeed is assumed/mandatory. If you happen to live somewhere that does not have fiber, and zero chance of getting fiber internet any time soon (the next 10+ years).

          Sorry that your telescope does not work as well. millions of people are happy with having high speed internet. YOU come up with a better solution...

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Sorry but no.

            I don't, but what I hear from people who do live in rural areas who were lucky enough to get Starlink is that speeds have fallen off dramatically. Ones who don't have it but want it have been waiting for months to get to the front of the list.

            1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

              Re: Sorry but no.

              This is bullshit. The user groups are full of people who have placed an order, and taken delivery within a few days. The only waiting list was two years ago, when the service was in beta testing.

              GJC

      3. FIA Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but no.

        Most people on the planet, don't have the luxury of electricity

        About 85 - 90% of the worlds population has access to electricity.

        or wifi or mobile signal (or showers)

        70+% has access to clean, running, water.

        1. Brian 3

          Re: Sorry but no.

          He's talking about population that matters, mate. Not city folk.

          1. FIA Silver badge

            Re: Sorry but no.

            Only 56% of the population lives in cities.

            My point was that the view that most of the world doesn't have electricity and running water is old fashioned, and unhelpful when actually trying to deal with the worlds problems. (For example, most people have electricity, so the next issue to solve is things like clean fuels for cooking).

            Starlink is an example of this, when 90% of the population has electricity it does become a viable tool to bring communications to remote areas.

      4. IceC0ld

        Re: Sorry but no.

        [quote]I'm sorry you can't see Venus[/quote]

        you had it RIGHT there, you had THE chance to use Uranus, but no, Venus, ffs VENUS :o)

      5. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but no.

        The permanent problem all satcomms has had for decades now is that cellular coverage reaches a very high proportion of the human population already, and it continues to improve at pace. The Chinese companies in particular have been laying fibre under oceans and erecting base stations everywhere.

        Satcomms is not an answer for the majority, it needs a niche.

        Starlink's niche is the US domestic market where, thanks to some very monopolistic practices by the establishment telcos, there is a large market of monied and willing customers looking for an alternative. Starlink is already "essential" to a lot of people in the states. When you do the numbers you can see that SpaceX could make a ton of money from a relatively small portion of the US market. The rest of the world is just a bonus...

      6. ThatOne Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Sorry but no.

        > I'm sorry you can't see Venus or whatever

        And I am sorry you can't get a decent download speed at Pornhub.

        See, I can make sweeping derogatory generalizations too... :-p

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: weaselly Starlink propaganda.

      Perhaps, but my guess is rather that someone realised that tagging on a "Starlink" angle to the press release gave the concept way more media traction than it would have otherwise; any possible propaganda benefits for Starlink are merely a side effect. But then maybe the Starlink swarms really did provide the trigger idea -- even if they are of minimal relevance in any other respect, and even if other systems might have provided the same nudge -- it's not that much of an implausibility.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: weaselly Starlink propaganda.

        > maybe the Starlink swarms really did provide the trigger idea

        No, space-based, ultra-large aperture synthesis arrays have been in the talks and planned for (AFAIK) well over 15 years, well before Starlink started to exist. It just takes a lot longer to get a funding for science projects...

        But first and foremost, besides the fact both are outside our atmosphere, GO-LoW doesn't have anything in common with Starlink: Starlink is a (large) group of classic communication satellites, while GO-LoW is a space-based very-long-baseline interferometry array.

    3. druck Silver badge

      Re: Sorry but no.

      Sorry, but GO-LoW and Starlink have little to nothing in common, except maybe that they use large groups of satellites

      That is precisely the commonality, i.e. that is now economically feasible to contemplate such massive arrays of satellites, regardless of what orbit they end up in.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but no.

        I suppose, but Starlink didn't invent small satellites or groups of satellites. Both concepts were in existence before that, at least as far back as the cube sat concept. The form factor idea was suggested in 1999 and the first ones sent up in 2003, so that's not something Spacex can take any credit for. They may be able to take credit for making launches cheap enough to consider as many satellites, but even if I was willing to make that leap in logic, it would be Spacex's rockets, not Starlink, that gets any credit.

        1. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: Sorry but no.

          I think it's a somewhat more abstract thing. Cheap access to space is a really good thing for astronomy. However, cheap access to space requires commoditization, which means lots of crap in space. These two aspects cannot be entirely separated.

          Think how cool it would be to build a giant telescope on the dark side of the moon! But the fastest way to get it probably goes through putting lots of annoying crap in orbit.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Sorry but no.

            > Cheap access to space is a really good thing for astronomy.

            Is it? Most astronomy is made with smaller, cheap, extremely specialized kit, over long periods. All which is incompatible with it being in space. Space-based kit is expensive, necessarily generic, and given its price tag you can't use it for long, not to mention there is a huge waiting list. There are millions of mid-sized/small telescopes on the ground, there is no chance we might even put a thousand in orbit...

            .

            > how cool it would be to build a giant telescope on the dark side of the moon

            Cool, I agree, but mostly pointless too: It would be so expensive it would be like Hubble: Something your average astronomer can only book very little time on. Yet, most astronomy is made through long, repeated observation...

            1. Filippo Silver badge

              Re: Sorry but no.

              Right. Space astronomy is limited because it's prohibitively expensive. Which is exactly why cheap access to space would be good.

              I mean, I said "cheap access to space is good", and you answered with "but access to space is too expensive". Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding, but aren't we saying the same thing?

          2. aks

            Re: Sorry but no.

            I fully agree with the concept but quibble about the name "dark side". The "far side of the moon" is as fully lit/unlit as any other longitude of the moon.

            Calling it the far side is anthropocentric, but then "I'm only human".

    4. chuBb.

      Re: Sorry but no.

      I thought the idea would be to use starlink as the back haul network for go-low

      Not a fan of the sky clutter at all, but if that's the plan then at least that's a useful side effect of a bollocksed night sky

  2. TJ1
    Facepalm

    Ironic naming

    So Go-Low will be ultra "high" whereas 'star'link has gone very low in Earth orbit.

    The hunt for catchy names goes on :)

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Ironic naming

      I think the "low" part refers to the frequency. Although even that is kind of funny since 10 MHz is considered "high frequency" (HF) in radio terms.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Ironic naming

      > So Go-Low will be ultra "high" whereas 'star'link has gone very low in Earth orbit.

      No, Go-Low is not in Earth orbit (or anywhere near Earth). According to the article, the Go-LoW array will be parked in L4/L5.

  3. John 110
    Thumb Up

    Can I...

    Can I upvote the whole article for the Billy Bragg references?

    Something to brag about indeed...

    1. Paul Johnston

      Re: Can I...

      I saw two shooting stars last night...

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Can I...

      I thought of Kirsty MacColl's '85 cover with tweaked lyrics, but agreed.

  4. Nifty Silver badge

    Hasn't anyone posted the obligatory yet?

    Billy Bragg - A New England https://youtu.be/IOLsnzuIADM

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    GO-LoW will live in two clusters at the inherently stable Lagrange 4 and Lagrange 5 points

    It doesn't seem a good idea to pollute these two points with 100,000 devices which will probably stay there forever.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
      Holmes

      Forever is a very long time.

      I predict that they will be scavenged for materials inside a century. Possibly even if they are still operational.

      GJC

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Forever is a very long time.

        What situation do you have in mind in which we urgently need some resources that can be found in these satellites and yet we have the resources to send something out there to retrieve them and safely land their resources back here? If your theory is that we have orbital launch platforms by then and they're collecting satellites to recycle them, that doesn't sound like scavenging and it's optimistic. We don't have a great history of going after old junk and recycling it unless it was causing particularly bad problems where it was.

        1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Forever is a very long time.

          "Land"? I doubt very much that any scavenging will be for planet-based requirements. I was more envisaging that they will present a readily-available, easy to access source of good-quality components and raw materials for people living outside the gravity well and political influence of Earth.

          Imagine, if you will, leaving a fleet of new Ford Focuses parked on the roughest estate you know of, with the keys in the ignition...

          GJC

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      I wonder how much space junk at a Lagrange point it takes before it just bunches up via gravity.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      I'm sure the satellites could be designed to eject themselves from the Lagrange points at the end of their life. They're not completely stable anyway -- anything in them is subject to having its orbit perturbed by other planets.

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