Re: (meteorobs) Re: Iridium flares

Among many other pearls of "wisdom", Lew imparted:

>far better for us if they can be constructed just as easily of components
>which are less reflective (or show smaller reflective areas to the ground)
>than those in current designs.

The reason satellites are made of highly reflective materials is so they
reflect the sunlight and not gather heat, sort of like a car baking in the
hot sun. I imagine there *are* some coating materials which would reduce
the glare and imagine that so far, there has been little reason to use them.

But remember that the Iridium "flare" is the reflection from the solar
panels, which cannot be covered so easily as with some kind of paint.

>I think it may also help in the long run, to keep in sight the concerns of
>ALL potentially interested parties - non-astronomers and amateurs as well as 
>professional radio and visual astronomers. This then opens up for us some
>very powerful arguments: imagine describing graphically, in a broad public
>forum, the effect on our children of finally (and basically irrevocably)
>obliterating the night sky which we and our ancestors took for granted.
That >ends up tying this back to the issue of Light Pollution reduction, too!

Unfortunately, Lew, we astronomers are already behind the times in terms of
recognizing the possible pollution that these satellites can and are
planned to emit in the years to come. The *real* fight against these
satellites actually became painfully-public for the satellite companies in

These satellites are called LEO satellites, which means Low Earth Orbit.
The orbit is low to reduce the radio path loss between earth and the birds.
I don't know for a fact, but believe that the Iridium series is what is
called a Little LEO bird because they are physically very small. By keeping
the birds very small, the cost is also kept relatively low which is how the
satellite companies can consider placing so many in orbit. The small size
also allows launching many birds at once from the same rocket; and, of
course, reduces the amount of real estate that such satellites consume once
in orbit, allowing still more space "junk" to be launched.

Almost two years ago, the Little LEO bird companies came up with a new
radio frequency allocation plan for future Little LEO birds which, to put
it mildly, tread on a lot of toes. Along with many other present users
(including the US Government and the military of almost every country using
V/UHF communications), the Little LEO companies proposed permanently taking
part of several amateur radio bands for the permanent and exclusive use of
Little LEO satellites. One of these bands is perhaps the most-used amateur
radio VHF band, while another is where the overflow from the first band
must go when there are no longer any open frequencies available in local
areas (which is already true of most large American cities). The Little LEO
companies proposed that in an extreme case, they thought that they could
"allow" the amateurs to "share", on a non-interference basis, part of those
bands if no place else could be found for the displaced amateurs.

The reaction from the amateurs, not just in the United States but also
world-wide, was something totally unexpected and unprecedented. The Federal
Communications Commission made the mistake of publishing an e-mail address
in its Request For Comment, which was flooded so quickly that within
several days, they had to ask that no more comments be sent via e-mail.

But the issue remains open as the Federal Communications Commission has not
yet issued a final decision of whether or not they will release a Proposal
for Rule Making to reallocate those amateur bands to the Little LEO
companies. If they should do so, the upheaval in the amateur community will
be totally and completely unprecendented, upsetting all amateur V/UHF
communications to the point where it will be extremely difficult for
amateurs to continue to provide even local emergency communications
services to their communities because there will be no place for them to
operate. If any of the readers here have doubts that your own local
amateurs have assisted your local law-enforcement agencies in the past with
emergency communications, I invite you to go ask around those agencies
about the value of the amateurs' services, particularly in areas where
natural disasters are relatively commonplace such as Tornado Alley in
Oklahoma and Texas, the upper midwestern flood plains, and in Oregon and
Washington states where the severe El Nino flooding took place just this
year. The services that the amateurs are now able to provide will
essentially become impossible if the Little LEO companies take the
amateurs' frequencies (just as those same companies have surreptiously
already "stolen" our dark night skies).

This latest issue about atmospheric light pollution reminds me of the
intransigent actions and attitudes of the Little LEO companies.

One of the worst parts of the amateur radio issue is that many amateurs now
work for those Little LEO companies. There's really no way out of that
particular situation; either the amateur employees keep their mouths shut
or their employers may take umbrage at their public attitudes and opinions.

I venture to guess that very, very few amateur astronomers happen to work
for Little LEO companies, in part because there probably are far fewer of
us than there are of radio amateurs. The other reason, of course, is
because fewer amateur astronomers happen to have hobbyist interests that
they have parlayed into permanent employment with electronics companies.

I'm personally glad that we, here on METEOROBS, have come up with this
particular issue regarding the Little LEOS even if our objections happen to
have little if nothing to do with my other personal objections to those
satellites, their owners, and their operators, as a radio amateur. Perhaps
we can now begin to convert this issue into something more substantial
through the astronomy publications and so foster a more wide-based and
public objection to the whole idea of these satellites as they are now
built and launched.

Personally, I've carried my personal objection over into both my home and
work life. I flatly refuse to either buy a wireless telephone or other such
system just to have the added "convenience" of such when an ordinary wired
phone has served me so well for my 47 years (actually, that's very easy for
me to do because, being hard-of-hearing, most cellular and other wireless
telephones are totally unusable with my hearing aides!). Similarly, I have
refused to be issued a cellular telephone or pager for my use in my work,
registering my particular and exact reasons for my objections with those
who wanted me to accept such equipment. Fortunately, my objections have not
had a noticeable impact on my employment (yet).

After all, someone has to begin taking a stand *somewhere*, right? Mine is
against all this "wireless" equipment that has attempted to make such
obstrusive and unwelcome in-roads into my personal lifestyle. It doesn't
bother me one little bit not to have a phone or pager interrupt my work or
home life for hours at a time.

>PS: And if you're worried about photometry, imagine the effects of
non-stop >-7 skyflares on dark-adapted visual meteor observers. :( In fact,
to the >extent that meteor observing benefits from the current "PHA" and
meteor storm 
>hysterias, perhaps public perception could even be turned to consider
>artifical sky flashes a threat to our survival? :)

That's an attractive but malicious thought, Lew! While we can think and
talk of that amongst ourselves, I shudder to think of the child wanting to
take his telescope into the back yard some night and Mom objects, saying
that watching the sky is "evil" because she has no idea of the difference
between a meteor flash and an Iridium flare!

>Just my $0.02,
>Lew Gramer

I give at the office, every day...

Shrewsbury MA