Astronomers fear that a small swarm of satellites, launched by Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX last week, will ruin the space observations of distant stars and galaxies. And they inform people about it.
On November 11, SpaceX launched 60 "Starlink" satellites in a near-Earth orbit and increased the overall constellation to 122 – already one of the largest satellite networks in space. The company plans to launch 12,000 broadband small satellites by the mid-2020s to deliver global high-speed Internet from space. The project is expected to cost $ 1
And astronomers fear that the observation of the sky will be disturbed by thousands of shiny objects, based on the early results of the last launch, which brought a train of satellites to final orbits 340 miles high at a pitch of 53 degrees Equator.
"Satellite constellations can pose a significant or debilitating threat to key existing and future astronomical infrastructures," the International Astronomical Union said in a statement issued last May. The IAU said that reflected sunlight from the satellites will damage the delicate optics of large observatory telescopes and also disrupt the new radio astronomy facilities.
The same month, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory announced "fruitful" discussions with SpaceX to minimize the disruption of its observations by Starlink satellites.
Musk quickly acknowledged the concerns in a tweet and urged engineers to reduce the reflectivity of satellites to reduce their impact on astronomy.
More recently, the Americans The Astronomical Society expressed its concern about the sheer number of planned satellites that overwhelm the night sky, causing space collisions and filling valuable orbits with dangerous debris. The SpaceX competitor OneWeb plans from 2020 its own gigantic constellation of broadband satellites.
Astronomers have little legal ground for light pollution from satellites, SpaceNews spacewalker Jeff Foust said. Space launches are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the satellites are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.
Another two launches of Starlink satellites are scheduled for the remainder of 2019.