Space X mission to send thousands of satellites into orbit has astronomers worried

Updated: Jun. 7, 2019 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii-based astronomers are worried about a Space X mission that will launch some 12,000 satellites into orbit.

Starlink, the brainchild of billionaire Elon Musks, is an initiative to bring the internet to every corner of the globe.

The first 60 Starlink satellites were launched from a Space X rocket last month and were captured streaking across the sky in the Netherlands.

The problem with the program?

“There’s a chance that when there are thousands of these things up there, they will be real contaminants to our exposure,” said Larry Denneau, a project scientist for the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System.

In other words, astronomers could have a harder time peering into space.

Denneau’s telescopes on Haleakala and Mauna Loa constantly scan the night sky, capturing and comparing images looking for incoming asteroids.

“Whereever our survey points a telescope when we are looking for an asteroid, there is a good chance now (once the Starlink constellation is deployed) that everywhere we look, we will see a satellite in our field,” said Denneau.

Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, is also concerned.

Her team is responsible for capturing the first image of a black hole, named Powehi, earlier this year. She says the light and and radio signals from Starlink satellites could have prevented that discovery.

“That is such a sensitive measurement (a tiny, tiny fraction of light) and its possible that we won’t see detection like that if we have this big swamp of radio noise in the sky between us and the thing we are trying to see,” said Dempsey.

Space X is in compliance with current rules and regulations but the International Astronomical Union is asking for more oversight.

Musk, meanwhile, has said on Twitter that there are already thousand of satellites in the sky and the Starlink mission will have zero impact on advancements in astronomy.

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