Astronomers warn Elon Musk's satellites could change our night sky
The massive Starlink satellite network from SpaceX is causing worries.
- SpaceX recently launched the first 60 of a planned 12,000 satellites for its Starlink network.
- The network will bring internet connectivity to an additional several billion people.
- Astronomers worry that all the satellites in low orbit will ruin the night sky and hinder science.
SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, recently launched the first batch of its Starlink satellite network into orbit. It was either a remarkable milestone for an audacious plan or the beginning of the end for the night sky as we know it, according to some critics.
While only 60 of the satellites went up into space aboard the Falcon 9 on May 23, the long-term plan is to up that number to around 12,000 by the mid-2020s. The stated goal is for these satellites to offer internet from space, making sure every part of the globe has a broadband connection.
An hour after launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the 500-pound satellites went up into orbit, about 340 miles (500 km) above Earth. Their array made for an incredible display, captured here by an amateur astronomer over Netherlands:
Not everyone was feeling optimistic from the launch, however. A number of astronomers have come out to say that crowding the sky with more permanent lights (which might even be visible during the day) is not a technological feat to applaud.
The big difference here is that previous launches generally placed larger communication satellites in fixed high orbits of about 36,000 km and up above the equator. Musk's network will be in much lower orbit, likely not requiring bulky satellite dishes for contact but also moving quickly around the world. In fact, its first sightings were reported as UFOs.
As the astronomer Michael J. I. Brown of Monash University writes in The Conversation, if all the planned satellites will be above us, there's a good chance hundreds of them will be visible above the horizon at all times. As they are visible to the naked eye, they could outnumber and outshine the brightest stars.
Marco Langbroek, who captured the train of Starlink satellites on video, said he didn't anticipate how bright they would be, adding "It really was an incredible and bizarre view to see that whole train of objects in a line moving across the sky."
Ronald Drimmel from the Turin Astrophysical Observatory in Italy called this a "potential tragedy".
"The potential tragedy of a mega-constellation like Starlink is that for the rest of humanity it changes how the night sky looks," said Drimmel. "Starlink, and other mega constellations, would ruin the sky for everyone on the planet."
As reported in Forbes, astrophysicist Darren Baskill from the University of Sussex in the U.K. also chimed in, warning: "If we can see them [satellites] with our eyes, that means they are extremely bright for the latest generation of large, sensitive ground-based telescopes."
Indeed, another worry for the astronomers is that the satellites will make it hard for telescopes like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile to take obstructed views of the sky; any picture would likely include thousands of satellites. Radio astronomy may also be disrupted by countless satellite signals traveling back and forth.
Next for the Starlink project is to get the satellite count to 800, at which point the network will become operational. Musk sees this network, which can provide internet connectivity for up to 3 billion people, as an important new stream of revenue for SpaceX, coming into existence ahead of similar projects like Amazon's Project Kuiper from the tech rival Jeff Bezos. That system, called a "constellation" by Amazon, plans to feature 3,236 satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Currently, there are about 18,000 objects tracked in Earth's orbit, with 2,000 satellites.
For his part, Elon Musk has not ignored the issue, saying he sent a note to the Starlink team to figure out how to make the satellites less reflective, perhaps raising their orbits.
- Elon Musk's Starlink 'Train' Looks Amazing, But Astronomers Have ... ›
- SpaceX Starlink: Everything You Need to Know | Digital Trends ›
- Elon Musk: SpaceX's Bright Starlink Satellites Won't Ruin the Night Sky ›
- How to See SpaceX's Starlink Satellite 'Train' in the Night Sky | Space ›
- Lights in the sky from Elon Musk's new satellite network have ... ›
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.