Science 2 min read

Scientists Claim SpaceX's Starlink Satellites a Threat to Astronomy

Astronomers believe that Elon Musk and SpaceX's Starlink satellites are a huge threat to the ground-based space observations they conduct here on Earth.

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Following the launch of 60 Starlink satellites on Monday, scientists are saying that SpaceX‘s plan threatens ground-based astronomy.

The Elon Musk-founded company has big plans to deliver broadband internet to the whole planet. Unsurprisingly, the endeavor entails launching up to 25,000 small Starlink satellites into the low Earth orbit.

Adding the 60 recently launched satellites, SpaceX currently has 120 Starlink satellites in space. Yet, 24 deployments are still necessary to attain its planned 2021 global internet service roll-out.

But, the company is not stopping.

In October, Musk announced that SpaceX had requested permission to operate 30,000 satellites. That’s in addition to the 12,000 that the Federal Communications Commission had previously approved.

Now here’s the problem.

As of January 2019, 5,000 satellites were in space, 1,950 of which are still functioning. If SpaceX launches all its Starlink satellites, it’ll lead to an unprecedented number of satellites orbiting the Earth.

According to reports, this has scientists worried.

In an email to Salon, chair of Harvard‘s astronomy department, Avi Loeb said:

“I am concerned [that] the SpaceX satellite launch marks the beginning of a new era,”

How the Starlink Satellites Threaten Astronomy

The SpaceX satellites affect astronomy in two ways.

The satellites can interfere with the radio wavelengths of the sensitive pieces of equipment which astronomers use. And this could lead to less accurate readings.

However, the biggest concern about the Starlink satellites is that they appear brighter than expected.

According to Smith College astronomer, James Lowenthal, thousands of bright satellites in the sky would look like stars. And this could interfere with dark sky surveys and large telescope, he points out.

Lowenthal told the Times:

“If there are lots and lots of bright moving objects in the sky, it tremendously complicates our job. It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself.”

Loeb told the press that SpaceX’s satellite launch is a reminder of the growing conflict between the interest of business and science. The scientists suggested that federal regulation was necessary to control the number [of] or luminosity of satellites.

Read More: Space Tourism to Become a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry by 2030

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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