New software to save Hubble images from annoying satellite streaks

Jun 13, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

New software to save Hubble images from annoying satellite streaks

Jun 13, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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hubble satellite light trails

After the first couple of batches of SpaxeX’s Starlink satellites were launched, astronomers got concerned: how would the satellites’ light affect the night sky? Their concerns soon proved to be justified, as the light streaks started to ruin observations of the night sky.

But researchers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have now come up with a solution. They’ve developed a tool that identifies the distinctive trails that satellites leave in Hubble photos. Thanks to this, space observations will be free from interfering light streaks not only from Starlink but from any artificial satellites out there.

The software

Hubble takes multiple pictures during each observation. The folks at STScI have come up with ways to spot and remove those pesky lines from satellites that show up in the images. They combine other pictures from the same observation to make images clear of any lines. Basically, I’d describe it as image stacking – we use something similar to create “levitation” and other fun effects in photos. The software applies to photos taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, which has a wider field of view than Hubble’s other instruments.

STScI already used a trail-spotting tool to remove the artificial satellite light from images. But the recently developed software is up to ten times more sensitive than the previous one.

It’s worth mentioning, and quite interesting, that Hubble’s younger brother, Webb Space Telescope, doesn’t face this issue. This is because it observes space from a location about 1 million miles away from Earth, far beyond the reach of any artificial satellites.

How problematic are the satellite light streaks?

Relying on more recent research, scientists emphasize that these satellite streaks are more of a nuisance than a significant problem. They are visible in about 10% of Hubble’s exposures, which sounds significant at first. However, in reality, they affect less than half a percent of the overall exposures.

“To date, these satellite trails have not had a significant impact on research with Hubble,” said Tom Brown, head of STScI’s Hubble Mission Office. “The cosmic rays that strike the telescope’s detectors are a bigger nuisance.”

Still, the number of artificial satellites continues to increase. STScI notes that it has surged from around 470 in 1990 to nearly 8,000 today. This is why the tools to remove satellite streaks from Hubble’s images will become increasingly important, and this is why they should be developed and updated with time.

[via Gizmodo]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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