This Manmade Satellite Shines The Brightest At Night, Baffles Scientists – News18

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Last Updated: October 05, 2023, 13:02 IST

The Bluewalker 3 satellite was launched in September last year.

On October 2, scientists were left surprised as the brightest object visible in the night sky was not a star or a planet, but rather the BlueWalker 3 prototype satellite.

The Sun is probably the brightest heavenly body in our skies. It is just one of many radiant shining stars across the universe. The Sun is the closest star to our planet and thus appears large and bright. It was generally believed that at night, the stars from galaxies — billions of light years away — were the brightest in the earth’s sky; while in some cases, Venus appears brightest at night. But no one would have thought that a man-made artificial satellite would turn out to be the brightest in the sky on some nights. On October 2, scientists with the International Astronomical Union took the scientific community by surprise by stating that one of the brightest objects visible in the night sky is not a star or a planet, but rather the BlueWalker 3 prototype satellite.

The report carried out by Nature said that most stars appeared pale in comparison to the BlueWalker 3. It is a prototype satellite, which is owned by AST Space Mobile Company. It is part of its planned satellite group, whose aim is to provide mobile or broadband services anywhere in the world. The 693-square-foot satellite is the precursor to a larger range of planned commercial satellites called Bluebirds.

The Bluewalker 3 satellite was launched in September last year. It functions essentially as a huge mirror that continuously reflects sunlight towards Earth, making it look particularly bright. According to a spokeswoman as told to, AST intends to build a cluster of roughly 90 such satellites soon. This development poses concerns for some astronomers, who fear that the night sky will soon be marred by artificial light.

Patrick Seitzer, an emeritus astronomer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbour, who was not engaged in the study, said in an interview: “The study shows us that there are no boundaries to satellite brightness, but I’m worried that the night sky will never look the same because we’re going to see a very large number of large satellites launched in the next decade.”

The Bluewalker 3 satellite is 400 times brighter than the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recommendation. The brightness of satellites in the night sky was measured by IAU researchers using a magnitude scale, on which the brightest objects are the smallest. The magnitude of the Bluewalker-3 satellite is just +0.4, making it one of the top ten brightest stars in the sky if it were a star.

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