Astronomy Group Says Starlink and Other Satellite Constellations Could Threaten Science

Space.com | 6/4/2019 | Meghan Bartels
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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is voicing concerns about the risk that SpaceX's Starlink and other planned massive satellite constellations in low Earth orbit pose to astronomy.

The group, most famous for its role in "demoting" Pluto from the rank of planet, represents more than 13,000 astronomers worldwide. In its statement, released yesterday (June 3), the IAU pointed out that while there are several megaconstellations under development, no one knows quite what consequences such huge numbers of low Earth orbit satellites could have on astronomy.

Organisation - Principle - Dark - Sky - Understanding

"The organisation, in general, embraces the principle of a dark and radio-quiet sky as not only essential to advancing our understanding of the Universe of which we are a part, but also as a resource for all humanity and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife," the statement reads. "We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both."

Related: SpaceX's 1st Starlink Internet Satellite Megaconstellation Launch in Photos!

IAU - Statement - Astronomers - Outcry - Visibility

The IAU was prompted to release its statement by astronomers' outcry about the high post-launch visibility of the first 60 Starlink satellites, which SpaceX deployed on May 23. (SpaceX's Starlink satellites will become less visible as they settle into their permanent orbits.) SpaceX CEO Elon Musk dismissed these concerns on Twitter on May 27, but the outcry has continued.

The statement is careful to note that it isn't just SpaceX's Starlink that poses a threat to astronomy. The company's existing Iridium constellation, as well as the in-progress OneWeb and existing Globalstar internet networks are also cited in the statement, as are Amazon's recently announced Project Kuiper satellite internet and the Athena internet satellite that Facebook was suspected to be working on last summer.

IAU - Concern

The IAU's concern with each of these...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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