SpaceX plans to deploy more than 12,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit over the next few years, which could affect observatories scanning potentially harmful asteroids in the sky, a leading astronomer said, according tomedia CNET. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shared his new research, analyzing the impact of starlink’s giant constellation on different observatories.
“Astronomers and casual observers of the night sky must expect the future of low-Earth orbits, including thousands of relatively large satellites,” McDowell wrote in the paper, which was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Preprinted copies posted online are drafts that have not been peer-reviewed.
Many astronomers and astronomical organizations have expressed concern that the growth of the giant constellation of satellites caused by SpaceX’s long-term deployment of up to 42,000 Starlink satellites will interfere with space science observations.
Shortly after SpaceX began launching satellites in 2019, ordinary sky watchers and professional astronomers were shocked by the bright light in the twilight sky and the field of view of large telescopes.
The brightness and number of satellites of spaceX and its rival, OneWeb, have caused problems for astronomers. Many pointed to the observation sites that are most likely to be most affected, such as the upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile, which has a particularly wide field of vision.
“However, there seem to be other scientific projects that could be more affected,” McDowell wrote. For example, the search for near-Earth asteroids involves observations made in the twilight, when satellites are illuminated throughout the year. McDowell modeled how many satellites in 12,000 constellations will illuminate the sun and horizon above three different latitudes on Earth during the summer and winter (the FCC has approved SpaceX’s launch of multiple satellites). “We see hundreds of satellites on the horizon at all times of the night; most of them are illuminated in the twilight zone in winter and throughout the summer. “
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive, has previously said the company will work with astronomers to ensure that the Starlink satellite has no impact on scientific discoveries. SpaceX has been working with different astronomical teams to study possible solutions and to use different methods to modify satellites to reduce their reflectivity. Still, the company will launch a new batch of Starlink satellites every few weeks.