Latest in Gear

Image credit: SpaceX, Flickr

SpaceX's internet satellites could be a problem for astronomers

Elon Musk is vowing to reduce their impact.
341 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

As helpful as SpaceX's Starlink satellites may be, they could be a pain for astronomers. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center's Jonathan McDowell and others have observed that the internet satellites are bright enough to cause a "problem" for astronomy, and the eventual constellation of roughly 12,000 satellites could complicate humanity's view of the night sky. It would triple the number of satellites in orbit, CNET noted, forcing telescope operators to account for the objects.

The issue isn't as bad as initially feared, when the satellites hadn't finished orienting their solar panels and were thus extra bright (you can see a video of this below). The vehicles are only intended to last five years in orbit before descending to a fiery death in the atmosphere, for that matter, so this may only be a temporary issue. Elon Musk has maintained that the Starlink constellation "won't be seen by anyone" unless they're going out of their way to look.

Still, the executive was aware of the potential pitfalls and vowed to do something about it. SpaceX would ensure that Starlink "had no material effect" on astronomy, Musk said, adding that he'd asked the team to reduce the albedo (reflectivity) of the satellites going forward. He was even receptive to the idea of mounting telescopes on Starlink bodies to provide a clearer view of space. While these moves won't completely ease the minds of sky watchers, the company is at least aware of its potential impact in an era where a crowded orbit and space debris are very real issues.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
341 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's 2019 Back-to-School Guide

Engadget's 2019 Back-to-School Guide

View
Hyundai teases all-electric concept '45' for Frankfurt

Hyundai teases all-electric concept '45' for Frankfurt

View
iPhone Pro, new iPad and 16-inch MacBook Pro details emerge

iPhone Pro, new iPad and 16-inch MacBook Pro details emerge

View
Russia tests new Soyuz rocket by sending a humanoid robot to the ISS

Russia tests new Soyuz rocket by sending a humanoid robot to the ISS

View
Android Q is now simply Android 10

Android Q is now simply Android 10

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr