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  • SpaceX recently launched its first batch of 60 satellites into low-Earth orbit, getting

  • us one step closer to global internet coverage.

  • Dubbed Starlink, this program will eventually form a mega constellation of nearly 12,000

  • satellites hovering about 550km above Earth.

  • But as the twinkling post-launch satellite train moved its way across the sky, astronomers

  • across the globe watched and wonderedare these things always going to be so...bright?

  • Many astronomers fear that Starlink will interfere with scientific observations.

  • Starlink's solar-powered, roughly 225kg satellites communicate with one another through

  • optical and radio links, and connect with ground terminals that can operate from pretty

  • much anywhere.

  • These satellites are expected to dramatically improve data transfer speeds and connectivity

  • compared with existing technologies, like Iridium satellites, of which there are currently

  • 66 in active orbit.

  • Starlink is also poised to drastically improve bandwidthpotentially surpassing fiber opticsand

  • reduce latency, or lag, which will be great for industries that rely on getting information

  • fast.

  • And the biggest selling point here?

  • Internet for all.

  • That's great news!

  • But what about the risks of Starlink cluttering our night sky?

  • Roughly 5,000 satellites currently crowd Earth's immediate environment, and Starlink is set

  • to nearly triple that number.

  • So astronomers aren't exactly starstruck with this idea.

  • In recent statements, astronomical groups strongly recommended that a regulatory framework

  • be developed to address a number of new challenges posed by the potential increase in satellite

  • bodies.

  • As the plan currently stands, some of the satellites will utilize frequencies neighboring

  • those that radio astronomers use to study the sky.

  • This interference could make it tricky for ground-based instruments, like the Event Horizon

  • Telescope, to clearly view distant objects in space.

  • I mean if it hadn't been for a sky free of radio interference, researchers may never have captured

  • our first image of a black hole.

  • And then there's the problem of all the light that Starlink generates.

  • Like Iridium satellites, they canflareby throwing bursts of reflected sunlight back from

  • their solar arrays down toward Earth.

  • Flares aside, it's suggested that the satellites will also be consistently bright.

  • Initial estimates of the satellites' visibility suggested they'd sit at an apparent magnitude

  • just slightly dimmer than the North star.

  • While updated reports indicate that they'll now sit within a lower magnitude range of

  • about 5 to 7, and this suggests that Starlink will remain visible to the naked eye.

  • And all that satellite contamination really adds up.

  • These reflective objects could confuse sensitive optical telescopes designed to survey the

  • entire sky, like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile.

  • Once all 12,000 satellites are in orbit, estimates say up to four Starlink satellites will

  • likely appear in every single one of the telescope's images in the hours approaching twilight.

  • Musk has said that they'll need at leastsix more launches of 60 satellitesfor

  • minor coverage.

  • Each satellite is designed to only last for a few years, dropping from the wider Starlink

  • array and burning up upon entry into Earth's atmosphere.

  • And that's just it.

  • With Starlink's satellites in space, traffic increasesand the risk of satellite collisions

  • goes up, too.

  • Collisions pose a national security threat, and current guidelines to safely manage orbiting

  • objects are pretty flimsy.

  • If a collision does occur, it would add to the already half a million pieces of space

  • junk present in Earth's orbit.

  • And in response to all this, Elon Musk has focused on the need for internet access for all, and

  • thatwe need to move telescopes to orbit anyway.”

  • But where does that leave astronomers who don't have the ability to travel into space

  • on a whim?

  • Or even those of us who just love to stargaze?

  • Space is basically a regulatory wild west, which presents a whole lot of unknowns for

  • us here on Earth.

  • To address astronomers' worries that communication satellites could ruin their careers, SpaceX

  • has been working with the National Science Foundation and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory

  • to try and keep observations clear of any disturbance.

  • It's also announced plans to redesign the next Starlink batch to appear less bright.

  • But SpaceX isn't the only company casting an Internet into the galactic sea.

  • OneWeb launched a fleet of comms satellites earlier this year, and is also working on

  • ways to reduce radio frequency interference and low-Earth orbit clutter.

  • Canadian company Telestat promises to operate its satellites at higher orbits so they'll

  • appear fainter.

  • Amazon, too, is quietly developing tech for its own Project Kuiper.

  • As the market for space real estate heats up, projects like Starlink are destined to

  • become more common.

  • Close collaboration between astronomers and these companies will be essential to keep

  • internet connections strong and our observations of the sky clear.

  • Because after all, astronomers are kind of like our very own guardians of the galaxy.

  • So what do you think, is it time to move astronomy into space, or figure out a way to move satellites

  • away from Earth?

  • Let us know in the comments below, and don't forget to subscribe for more Seeker.

  • I'll see you next time, thanks for watching.

SpaceX recently launched its first batch of 60 satellites into low-Earth orbit, getting

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