Scientists Concerned Musk's Starlink Satellites Might Ruin View Of Night Sky

James Marshall
June 7, 2019

In a statement published this week, the IAU said satellite networks or constellations like SpaceX's Starlink, risk interfering with radio frequencies and astronomical observations. It's like an extra sphere of stuff around our earth, in low-earth orbit, and it could get messy. To date, there have been fewer than 200 such satellites, according to the statement, but the IAU worries that number could reach five digits.

"After working closely with SpaceX, NSF has finalized a coordination agreement to ensure the company's Starlink satellite network plans will meet global radio astronomy protection standards, limiting interference in this radio astronomy band", the NSF said in a statement Tuesday.

"We also urge appropriate agencies to devise a regulatory framework to mitigate or eliminate the detrimental impacts on scientific exploration as soon as practical".

SpaceX launched its first fleet of satellites for the Starlink chain on May 23rd. Eventually, the Union released a statement on Monday stating that satellite constellations of the likes of Starlink could actually negatively impact our ability to understand the universe and that a radio-quiet sky is also necessary for protecting nocturnal wildlife.

In a tweet, Musk argued that there are already 4,900 satellites in orbit and most are not noticeable.

"Starlink won't be seen by anyone unless looking very carefully and will have zero percent impact on advancements in astronomy". " He said and went on to conclude that "We need to move telescopes to orbit anyway". Atmospheric attenuation is bad".

For what's it worth, SpaceX has been collaborating with the US National Science Foundation who, in turn, has released a statement saying that it has "finalized a coordination agreement to ensure the company's Starlink satellite network plans will meet global radio astronomy protection standards, limiting interference in this radio astronomy band".

Mr Musk added: "We care a great deal about science".

The IAU voiced two concerns over the upcoming launch of massive amounts of satellites over the next several years. The following day, amateur astronomers have been the one that has noticed the satellites passing by real close and quick to spot with the naked eye.

The IAU fears "aggregate radio signals emitted" by satellite constellations could have an impact on such future endeavours.

The group said: "Recent advances in radio astronomy, such as producing the first image of a black hole or understanding more about the formation of planetary systems, were only possible through concerted efforts in safeguarding the radio sky from interference".

And the number of proposed satellite constellations is growing.

The International Dark-Sky Association is anxious because other companies besides SpaceX will be launching satellites, said Amanda Gormly, the association's director of communications.

The group, most famous for its role in "demoting" Pluto from the rank of planet, represents more than 13,000 astronomers worldwide.

"At this point, all 60 satellites have deployed their solar arrays successfully, generated positive power and communicated with our ground stations", Behrend said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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