Katie Mack @AstroKatie (a.k.a. Dr Katherine J Mack) astrophysicist/cosmologist, occasional freelance science writer, connoisseur of cosmic catastrophes May. 25, 2019 1 min read

SpaceX just launched 60 new satellites, which have been spotted as a chain of bright lights across the sky. As more are launched and orbits change, this could be a very big problem for ground-based astronomy. Musk’s offhand “they can’t be seen at night” is not true or reassuring.

If you’re curious what these things looked like shortly after deployment, there’s a video here:  https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/25/18639905/spacex-starlink-satellites-video-dr-marco-langbroek-netherlands 
Note: When they move to higher altitude (& disperse), they’ll catch sunlight longer into the night, though they’ll also be farther so should be a bit dimmer

I’m not an observer (I do theory), so I don’t have a feel for how bad this is going to be. But a ton of the astronomers and astrophotographers I follow on here are VERY concerned that if all 12,000 of these things go up, the consequences could be drastic.

If these estimates hold up, there will only be a few hundred stars brighter than these satellites when they’re in view. (Which would be: any time they’re overhead at night, high enough to reflect some sun, which could be often, depending on your location.)

Maybe the benefit of the satellites will be worth the cost to astronomy, astrophotography, and stargazing in general. Hard to say at this point. But probably a discussion that should be had before the rest of the satellites are deployed.


You can follow @AstroKatie.



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