SpaceX's Starlink satellites lighting up the nightsky but blinding telescope lenses

Pablo Tucker
May 30, 2019

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SpaceX has previously said that the Starlink satellite system would reach "significant operational capacity" once it has 800 satellites in orbit.

However, after the excitement calmed down, astronomers both professional and amateur seem to have concerns about the Starlink constellation obstructing their view of space and all its mysteries.

It wasn't long after the launch that Langbroek caught the satellites on camera. "At those latitudes the satellites will be invisible for only 4 hours in typical a summer's night".


Numerous 60 satellites are glinting in sunlight-that is, "flaring".

A handful of test satellites have been launched by SpaceX in the past, but nothing on this scale before - in a landmark moment for the company and industry as a whole.

While SpaceX didn't cause the problem - there are already 2,100 active satellites in Earth's orbit, according to the Satellite Industry Association - the launch this weekend did crystallize it. Footage shot by a Netherlands astronomer showed the 60 satellites far outshining the stars around them as they climbed toward their eventual position at 550km altitude.

The third task facing Musk's team is to gain acceptance for his Starlink service outside the US. But he later tweeted that he had asked the Starlink team to look at ways of reducing the reflectivity of the satellites- and even suggested that he might be interested in putting a telescope into orbit.


He added that there would be an economic benefit to launching the satellite service by "potentially helping billions of economically disadvantaged people".

The satellites launched in rapid succession to each other, putting them very close to one another in orbit.

The Indian Express explains that the Starlink network will use a total 12,000 low-orbit satellites that move in three different orbital shells about 500 to 1,300 kilometres above the Earth. This again could increase the chances of a Kessler-type of syndrome. SpaceX's satellites aren't meant to be in Earth's orbit forever - they will fall back on Earth after a span of five years, burning up in the atmosphere on their way down.


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