Elon Musk’s spacetech company SpaceX is trying to bring broadband to the globe by sending up to 12,000 tiny satellites into low-Earth orbit. But not everybody is thrilled.
Astronomers are finding that the 122 satellites that the SpaceX launched so far are already ruining the night sky, appearing as extremely bright trails of light in the observations.
Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, astronomer at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in northern Chile, tweeted:
“‘Wow!! I’m chocked!!. The huge amount of Starlink satellites crossed our skies tonight at @cerrotololo. Our [Dark Energy Camera] exposure was heavily affected by 19 of them!
The space company sent 60 new Starlink microsatellites into Earth’s low orbit on November 11, and many more launches are planned. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX’s request to launch an additional 7,518 satellites, bringing the total number of approved units to nearly 12,000.
This means that if SpaceX follows its plan, the problem will only get worse.
Martínez-Vázquez yet wrote:
The train of Starlink satellites lasted for over 5 minutes!! Rather depressing… This is not cool!
The International Astronomical Union has highlighted the issue in a june statement arguing that Starlink reflective satellites could “impair the sensitive capacities of large terrestrial astronomical telescopes” and that “aggregate radio signals emitted by satellite constellations can still threaten astronomical observations at radio wavelengths.”
Some astronomers are even turning the problem into a meme:
New word definition:
“To `starlink’ a picture – to add satellite-like trails to a photograph, for added pizzazz”
Example: “Look, Leonardo, I starlinked Mona Lisa for you!” pic.twitter.com/oyhonJuwHZ
— ASAS-SN (@SuperASASSN) 18 November 2019