SpaceX Starlink satellites to cause headaches for astronomers

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FLORIDA

Those aren’t an intelligent extraterrestrial army moving in to take over planet Earth they’re just SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, designed to provide broadband services across the globe. The first batch of satellites were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and deployed to orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 23. Each contains 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 Vimeo.

In time, the satellites will drift apart and head to specific orbits so that satellite internet coverage can be beamed to every corner of the globe. 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 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. Practically overnight, our view of the sky has changed.

We’ve become used to change in space activities as slow and incremental, and suddenly, it’s fast and speeding up, said Alice Gorman, space archeologist at Flinders University, Australia. —VoM

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