4 years ago

Astronomers fear SpaceX satellites will block stars

TomoNews US
TomoNews US
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — Starlink is planning on deploying thousands of satellites into Earth's orbit and astronomers are concerned.

Real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk, is known for his radical technological ventures. Remember when he sent out a Tesla Roadster into earth's orbit, just for kicks?

His most recent plan, however, is much more impactful — to provide the entire world with internet access. SpaceX plans to do so by sending out low-orbiting satellites into orbit, effectively creating a network that they've dubbed Starlink.

Starlink promises to provide a stable connection to users around the world with minimal delay.

Last week, SpaceX confirmed the deployment of 60 Starlink satellites into Earth's orbit and that's just the beginning. Getting our Wi-Fi from space sounds pretty cool, but for Starlink to work as promised, thousands of satellites need to be deployed and that is concerning to some experts, particularly astronomers.

According to a report from the New York Times, having thousands of satellites reflecting light in space could disturb astronomer's view of the night sky.

Whenever a satellite passes by a telescope's field of view when it is taking a long exposure shot, it destroys the whole image. This in itself is not a big issue, scientists have learned to work around the occasional satellite but Starlink could be tripling the number of satellites in orbit in the years to come.

Experts aired their worry on social media. Planetary astronomer, Alex Parker, warned his followers saying, quote, "If SpaceX launches all 12,000, they will outnumber stars visible to the naked eye."

Some Twitter users replied, stating that the satellites were not a cause for concern as they would only be visible during certain times of the day. Even Elon Musk himself chimed in saying, "Precisely, sats will be in darkness when stars are visible."

Dutch archaeologist, Marco Langbroek clapped back at Musk with a video he took which showed Starlink satellites crossing above the night sky in Leiden, Netherlands. The satellites clearly overshadowing neighboring stars.

In his tweet, he explained to Musk that the satellites might be invisible in winter but not during summer. Adding quote, " they are visible throughout the night at middle latitudes like Europe." Musk didn't reply.

The Times reports that the radio frequencies these satellites emit are also a cause for concern. Radio stations used by astronomers are located in remote areas to avoid interference from other cell towers. If Starlink deploys all its satellites, these radio quiet zones will cease to exist.

According to Musk though, there's no reason to panic. In a tweet, he explained they would avoid using certain frequencies so as to not disturb radio astronomy.

In another tweet, Musk justified the Starlink Satellites saying, quote, "There are already 4,900 satellites in orbit, which people notice ~0% of the time. Starlink won't be seen by anyone unless looking very carefully & will have ~0% impact on advancements in astronomy."

So, next time you look up and wish upon a star, just know that you might inadvertently be wishing upon a SpaceX satellite.

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