SpaceX launched 60 Starlink Internet satellites on January 6, one of which is partially blacked out, called DarkSat, designed to reduce brightness and test the threat to the astronomical community from its giant constellation. Several companies are planning to launch thousands of Internet satellites into space over the next few years, with SpaceX planning 24 Starlink satellite launches this year.
Tony Tyson, chief scientist at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which used to be known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, says he has trouble sleeping.
At the American Astronomical Society this week, astronomer and SpaceX Vice President of Satellite Affairs Patricia Cooper discussed Starlink’s impact on astronomical observations. Tyson’s team is exploring the use of software to remove the trajectory of the Starlink satellite from the image.
If there are satellites in the direction of telescopes, they can move at an angle, but if there are thousands of satellites in the sky, that’s another problem, and they lose a lot of operating time.
DarkSat doesn’t solve the problem because no matter how dim they are under a telescope, they have an impact.