SpaceX Starlink satellites dazzle but may cause headaches for astronomers

CNET | 5/27/2019 | Jackson Ryan
townskey13townskey13 (Posted by) Level 3
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Toot toot!

Those aren't an intelligent extra-terrestrial army moving in to take over planet Earth -- they're just SpaceX's Starlink satellites, designed to provide broadband services across the globe.

Batch - Satellites - Cape - Canaveral - Florida

The first batch of satellites were successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida and deployed to orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 23. They contain a single solar array, which both captures and bounces sunlight off the satellites and, as a result, can sometimes be seen from Earth. On May 25, as the drifting luminescent army of satellites zoomed overhead, Dutch satellite tracker Marco Langbroek captured their marching, posting a stunning video to his Vimeo.

In time, the satellites will drift further apart and are designed to hold specific orbits so that satellite internet coverage can be beamed to every corner of the globe.

Display - Night - Sky - Steam - Media

However, as the unusual display in the night sky quickly gathered steam across social media, some astronomers began to point out the potential problems the satellite system may pose for radio astronomy. At present, only 60 satellites are moving into their orbit, but eventually that number will reach 12,000 and a megaconstellation will encircle the Earth. That would nearly triple the current amount of satellites currently orbiting the Earth.

With such a huge number of satellites, will our view of space and the stars be forever obstructed?

Answer - SpaceX - Starlink - Satellites - Earth

The quick answer: Not forever, no -- SpaceX are designing Starlink satellites to fall back to the Earth after about five years of service, burning up in the atmosphere on their way back in. But the long answer is: Potentially. Astronomers already wrangle with the problems posed by space robots and satellites circling the Earth whenever they turn their ground-based telescopes toward the stars. Bright, reflective surfaces pose a problem because they obstruct our view of the universe and thus cloud our vision.

More satellites equals...
(Excerpt) Read more at: CNET
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