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The impact of satellite trails on Hubble Space Telescope observations

The impact of satellite trails on Hubble Space Telescope observations
The impact of satellite trails on Hubble Space Telescope observations
The recent launch of low Earth orbit satellite constellations is creating a growing threat for astronomical observations with ground-based telescopes that has alarmed the astronomical community. Observations affected by artificial satellites can become unusable for scientific research, wasting a growing fraction of the research budget on costly infrastructures and mitigation efforts. Here we report the first measurements, to our knowledge, of artificial satellite contamination on observations from a low Earth orbit made with the Hubble Space Telescope. With the help of volunteers on a citizen science project (www.asteroidhunter.org) and a deep learning algorithm, we scanned the archive of Hubble Space Telescope images taken between 2002 and 2021. We find that a fraction of 2.7% of the individual exposures with a typical exposure time of 11 minutes are crossed by satellites and that the fraction of satellite trails in the images increases with time. This fraction depends on the size of the field of view, exposure time, filter used and pointing. With the growing number of artificial satellites currently planned, the fraction of Hubble Space Telescope images crossed by satellites will increase in the next decade and will need further close study and monitoring.
2397-3366
262-268
Kruk, Sandor
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García-Martín, Pablo
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Popescu, Marcel
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Aussel, Ben
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Dillmann, Steven
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Perks, Megan E.
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Lund, Tamina
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Merín, Bruno
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Thomson, Ross
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Karadag, Samet
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McCaughrean, Mark J.
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Kruk, Sandor
595330a5-a5ee-4809-8352-8f67accb5a44
García-Martín, Pablo
140e4783-30a9-4f3a-b2ff-dcc1ff9d7c0a
Popescu, Marcel
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Aussel, Ben
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Dillmann, Steven
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Perks, Megan E.
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Lund, Tamina
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Merín, Bruno
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Thomson, Ross
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Karadag, Samet
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McCaughrean, Mark J.
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Kruk, Sandor, García-Martín, Pablo, Popescu, Marcel, Aussel, Ben, Dillmann, Steven, Perks, Megan E., Lund, Tamina, Merín, Bruno, Thomson, Ross, Karadag, Samet and McCaughrean, Mark J. (2023) The impact of satellite trails on Hubble Space Telescope observations. Nature Astronomy, 7 (3), 262-268. (doi:10.1038/s41550-023-01903-3).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The recent launch of low Earth orbit satellite constellations is creating a growing threat for astronomical observations with ground-based telescopes that has alarmed the astronomical community. Observations affected by artificial satellites can become unusable for scientific research, wasting a growing fraction of the research budget on costly infrastructures and mitigation efforts. Here we report the first measurements, to our knowledge, of artificial satellite contamination on observations from a low Earth orbit made with the Hubble Space Telescope. With the help of volunteers on a citizen science project (www.asteroidhunter.org) and a deep learning algorithm, we scanned the archive of Hubble Space Telescope images taken between 2002 and 2021. We find that a fraction of 2.7% of the individual exposures with a typical exposure time of 11 minutes are crossed by satellites and that the fraction of satellite trails in the images increases with time. This fraction depends on the size of the field of view, exposure time, filter used and pointing. With the growing number of artificial satellites currently planned, the fraction of Hubble Space Telescope images crossed by satellites will increase in the next decade and will need further close study and monitoring.

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Accepted/In Press date: 27 January 2023
Published date: 2 March 2023
Additional Information: Funding Information: We acknowledge the tremendous work made by over 11,000 citizen scientist volunteers on the Hubble Asteroid Hunter citizen science project. Their contributions are individually acknowledged on https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/sandorkruk/hubble-asteroid-hunter/about/results. We thank the anonymous referees for their helpful comments that have improved the paper. We thank V. Braun for the helpful discussions and useful comments on the draft. We acknowledge support from M. Arévalo and J. Espinosa, from the eHST team at ESAC, who supported this research by providing postage stamps of HST individual exposures on scale from the archive. Finally, we acknowledge our frequent and helpful interactions with the STScI helpdesk. This publication uses data generated via the Zooniverse.org platform, the development of which is funded by generous support, including a Global Impact Award from Google, and by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This material is based on work supported by the Google Cloud Research Credits programme with the award no. GCP19980904. This work has made extensive use of data from HST mission, hosted by the European Space Agency at the eHST archive, at ESAC (https://www.cosmos.esa.int/hst), thanks to a partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute, in Baltimore, MD, USA (https://www.stsci.edu/) and with the Canadian Astronomical Data Centre, in Victoria, Canada (https://www.cadc-ccda.hia-iha.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/). The work of M.P. was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research: UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-1504. Publisher Copyright: © 2023, The Author(s).

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 476918
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/476918
ISSN: 2397-3366
PURE UUID: eabcaf22-e5aa-44a4-8939-c01bbd563c4f
ORCID for Megan E. Perks: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6459-3851

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Date deposited: 19 May 2023 16:36
Last modified: 26 Jun 2024 02:06

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Contributors

Author: Sandor Kruk
Author: Pablo García-Martín
Author: Marcel Popescu
Author: Ben Aussel
Author: Steven Dillmann
Author: Megan E. Perks ORCID iD
Author: Tamina Lund
Author: Bruno Merín
Author: Ross Thomson
Author: Samet Karadag
Author: Mark J. McCaughrean

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