AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tuesday night, several viewers wrote into KXAN after spotting a string of mysterious lights moving in a straight line across the sky. Unfortunately, these were not visitors from another world but likely dozens of satellites launched into space by the private company SpaceX as part of its Starlink project. The project’s goal: to provide Wi-Fi to the world.
What is Starlink?
The Starlink project is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. Over the next few years, SpaceX will launch more than 30,000 satellites into orbit around the planet. So far, the company has launched two payloads into orbit, with 120 satellites total.
Once all of the satellites are launched, they will form a net around the planet that will be capable of providing internet access to everyone, everywhere. All people will need to connect will be a receiver the size of a pizza box. It sounds like a great plan, but one group of scientists isn’t happy about it.
Astronomers do not like Starlink
As Central Texans witnessed this week, the Starlink satellites are visible with the naked eye. The company has announced plans to paint future satellites black to reduce the reflectiveness that is making them visible. However, there will still be thousands of new objects flying through the sky. Once the project is complete, there will be eight times as many satellites around the earth as there are now.
Astronomers are not happy about this at all. According to the New York Times, the American Astronomical Society has convened a committee to discuss the project and several others like it that are in the works, including projects by Amazon, Telesat and OneWeb. They’re concerned about the satellites interfering with their observations of the sky.
One of the biggest concerns is for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a billion-dollar telescope under construction in Chile. The telescope, when completed, will be capable of observing parts of the universe we haven’t seen before, including the potential ability to observe to origins of the universe. The telescope will still be able to see the Starlink satellites, even if they are painted black. Based on current projections, the telescope would be unable to dodge satellites 20% of the time.