“Mega-constellations” from those satellites will be visible to the naked eye, simulations suggest
By Lisa Grossman
Companies like SpaceX and Amazon have launched hundreds of satellites into low orbits since 2019, with plans to launch thousands more in the works — a trend that’s alarming astronomers. The goal of these satellite “mega-constellations” is to bring high-speed internet around the globe, but these bright objects threaten to disrupt astronomers’ ability to observe the cosmos (SN: 3/12/20). “For astronomers, this is kind of a pants-on-fire situation,” says radio astronomer Harvey Liszt of the National Radio Astronomical Observatory in Charlottesville, Va.
Now, a new simulation of the potential positions and brightness of these satellites shows that, contrary to earlier predictions, casual sky watchers will have their view disrupted, too. And parts of the world will be affected more than others, astronomer Samantha Lawler of the University of Regina in Canada and her colleagues report in a paper posted September 9 at arXiv.org.
“How will this affect the way the sky looks to your eyeballs?” Lawler asks. “We humans have been looking up at the night sky and analyzing patterns there for as long as we’ve been human. It’s part of what makes us human.” These mega-constellations could mean “we’ll see a human-made pattern more than we can see the stars, for the first time in human history.”