Over the past two years, Elon Musk's astronautics and spaceflight company, SpaceX, has already put more than 950 Starlink satellites into orbit. As a reminder, Starlink is a satellite Internet access project, proposed by SpaceX, which is based on the deployment of several thousand satellites in low earth orbit.
The first satellites made it possible to connect the rural areas of America to a broadband Internet. Only, if all this seems to be only positive, astronomers have recently complained that Starlink's satellites, and more to come, are invading the skies, hiding the stars and ruining their observations, because because they are too bright.
But in a document published on Saturday January 09, 2021 on ArXiv , it was reported that Starlink added sunshades to the last 415 satellites it put into orbit, this in order to reduce their brightness by 30%, but this is largely insufficient for astronomers.
VisorSats do not conceal satellites enough
According to this document, these sun visors developed by SpaceX, called "VisorSats", considerably darkened the satellites. These visors deploy after the satellites are launched and thus prevent sunlight from reflecting off the brightest surfaces of the satellites. Despite this, these visors do not completely hide the light from the satellites and this makes them visible through telescopes.
And it is this last point that astronomers deplore. With the 12,000 satellites that SpaceX will still deploy by 2027, with the agreement of the FCC, scientists fear that the swarming sky will soon be invaded by false stars and that it will be impossible to calmly continue the study and the observation of the cosmos. In addition, these satellites will hamper the efforts of astronomers to study celestial bodies and, more importantly, protect the Earth from dangerous asteroids.
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Amazon, OneWeb and GW also want to launch their batch of satellites in the sky
For the moment, SpaceX has not expressed itself on these fears of astronomers, nor on its VisorSats. However, Business Insider informs us that SpaceX aims to descend its satellites to a magnitude 7, which would make them much darker and almost invisible to the naked eye. In any case, the FCC has been clear that preventing disruption of astronomical observations is not one of the requirements for licensing.
But SpaceX's satellites aren't the only ones worrying the astronomical community. Besides SpaceX, other companies also want to launch satellites in space like Amazon, OneWeb and the Chinese company GW. OneWeb, in particular, wants to send its satellites to a higher altitude than Starlink's, which would make them more visible during much of the night. If that comes to pass, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian said it will become impossible to conduct most ground observations during the summer.