MIT Technology Review
by Neel V. Patel September 2, 2020
The astronomy community is on edge. The growing number of satellites streaming through low Earth orbit is making it almost impossible to get a clear view of the sky.
The true threat these mega-constellations pose to the astronomy community is only just beginning to be understood. A report released last week by the American Astronomical Society concluded that they will “fundamentally change astronomical observing” for optical and near-infrared investigations moving forward. “Nighttime images without the passage of a sun-illuminated satellite will no longer be the norm,” the authors write.
The first Starlink satellites were already clearly visible shortly after launch last year, and some observatories found their images of the night sky ruined. On Thursday, SpaceX is set to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites, with a set of 60 to join the fleet of 653 that have been launched since May 2019. In a several years the entire network is expected to swell to 12,000 satellites, with a possible expansion to 42,000. London-based OneWeb, pushing through a year of bankruptcy and new ownership, just found FCC approval for 1,280 satellites to provide broadband services to US consumers, and the company is proposing a constellation that could eventually expand to 48,000 satellites. Amazon finally received approval for its Project Kuiper proposal to launch 3,236 satellites for its own satellite internet service, and this is likely just the beginning. Astronomy as we know it will never be the same.
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