Starlink is Elon Musk's "revolutionary" idea to provide the entire globe with Internet access, all thanks to a network of satellites orbiting the Earth. 12,000 to be exact. And it is only one of many projects. Some astronomers are worried....
Visual pollution and sky congestion
On May 23, 2019, Space X proudly announced the launch of its first 60 satellites in orbit around the Earth as part of its Starlink project. They immediately formed a line of light points, visible from Earth, as they took off and spread even further aloft. 60 visible satellites is one thing, but what will happen when they reach 12,000 in number? This is an issue that is of increasing concern to more and more astronomers.
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On May 25, NASA tweeted an image of this satellite belt from the sky:
The night sky is going to change forever. It started on 4 Oct 1957 @SpaceX #Starlink satellite train is a preview of what a spacefaring civilization does: large orbital infrastructure, regular commercial flights, global coverage to allow all humans to make use of space technology pic.twitter.com/oiqykwWIsr— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) May 26, 2019
SpaceX reassures as best it can
60 is a small figure compared to the 12,000 satellites that are expected to be launched by 2024. This would mean that among them, about a hundred would be constantly visible in the sky. Quite a bit of visual pollution, then. In this sense, SpaceX intends to reassure the public and ensure that satellites will be raised further up in orbit to be less visible. The company is also working on reducing their albedo, i.e. the ability of an object to reflect light.
But, it is not only Space X that wants to conquer the orbit of our planet with its satellites. There are many Internet projects in space that are supported by Amazon or OneWeb. So what happens when all these companies have sent their own satellites?
That'll make a formidable number of devices in the sky. Moreover, the astronomer Alex Parker, did not fail to mention: "If SpaceX launches all 12,000, they will outnumber stars visible to the naked eye."