NASA will put an artificial star in orbit before 2030, did you say Star Wars?

Faced with concerns about ever-increasing light pollution, NASA is proposing an innovative solution: launching an artificial star into orbit. This mission aims to improve astronomers in their observations of the universe.

L’observation of the universe is more and more complicated because of light pollution. The proliferation of low-orbit satellites, such as those of Starlink, has caused a scandal because of their impact on scientific research. In 2022, more than 4,852 of these devices were orbiting the Earth. The National Foundation for American Science had expressed concern because their excessive brightness disrupts the work of astronomers. SpaceX has committed to reducing this interference, but the problem persists with the increase in megaconstellations of communications satellites.

To avoid light pollution, NASA plans to launch a “artificial star”. But don’t worry, this one has nothing to do with the Death Star in Star Wars. It will be a small satellite, which will be the size of a shoebox. It will be in geostationary orbit 35,786 kilometers above Earth. This means that he will follow the rotation of our planet and will appear fixed in the sky. For the first year, it will be positioned over the United States and use lasers to simulate a star in an effort to help researchers refine their astronomical observations.

NASA hopes to launch artificial star by 2029

This small satellite will use lasers to imitate different stars and supernovas. It will thus allow astronomers to calibrate their instruments and improve the study of these stars. This project aims to offer a solution to the stray light problems that affect terrestrial telescopes. Although this artificial star is invisible to the naked eye, it will be easily observed with telescopes equipped with digital cameras such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory which has the largest in the world.

The mission, which is expected to cost approximately 18 million euros. It will mobilize a team of around thirty people. Researchers hope to launch this artificial star from here 2029. This project represents a relatively modest investment compared to other NASA missions, such as the one which aims to bring back samples from Mars with its 10 years delay and 11 billion euros.

Source: George Mason University

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