Observation Shield

An observation shield or observation blind is a device used in xenological research to conceal a spacecraft or satellite from being detected by a civilization being surveyed. It normally consists of a thin layer of black, light and radio-absorbent material deployed from a craft to hide it from view.
  They are used when studying pre-spaceflight civilizations prior to making first contact. While in many cases developing civilizations will have no idea what a spaceship or an alien even is, modern Exploration Service survey craft are big enough for light reflected off their hulls to make them noticable to beings watching the night sky, to whom they'd appear as moving stars. More-advanced, industrial civilizations may be also able to detect the ship using radar.
  To prevent cultural contamination before open contact, even contamination as simple as a soothsayer making predictions based on a new star's appearance, research ships will deploy an observation shield as they approach such a planet. The shield, dark black and absorbent of light and radio waves, is oriented towards the planet to block the ship from its view. So long as it maintains this orientation, the inhabitants will find the ship very hard to detect unless they know exactly what they are looking for. (It is impractical to encase an entire survey ship in an observation shield, as it would be unable to shed heat with its radiators.)
  Sensors are poked through apertures in the shield to maintain watch on the planet below, and usually a constellation of satellites, each with its own small observation shield, is deployed in order to monitor the entire surface. (The minimum requirement for this is one ship and two satellites, forming an equilateral triangle in medium orbit around the equator, though quality will suffer when viewing extreme polar regions.)
  An observation shield is wholly useless at hiding from an interplanetary civilization or for military stealth in the starweb, since it can be easily defeated by modern sensors or by watching the ship from different angles.


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