On Monday, in the early hours of the morning, two astronomers used their remote-controlled telescopes in Chile, hoping to view images of distant galaxies and stars. Instead, a worrying sign of astronomy was observed as they found a train of SpaceX satellite crossing the night sky. According to Cliff Johnson, Northwestern University in Chicago is one of the two astronomers who said that after observing the second half of night we put together and found the train of Starlink satellites. Starlink is SpaceX’s upcoming giant constellation, which can accommodate up to 42,000 satellites. It will transmit high-speed Internet worldwide. SpaceX and its competitors such as Amazon and OneWeb touted the benefits of bringing the Internet to everyone, including an estimated 3 billion without the Internet.
However, today, only 3,000 active satellites are orbiting the Earth. Many astronomers are concerned that this dramatic increase will produce more artificial light spots in the night sky. For sciences that rely on the night sky, the constant observation of multiple satellites can cause serious problems. After the first launch this year in May, SpaceX launched the second batch of 60 Starlink satellites last week. The satellites were deployed on a 280-kilometer train, even visible to the naked eye. Though they were in the process of rising to a working height of 550 km, where binoculars and telescopes could still see them. Cees Bassa of the Netherlands Radio Astronomy Institute said: “These things are big enough that when they are exposed to sunlight, they are bright enough to be picked up with binoculars and larger telescopes.” Bassa calculated that if all the planned satellites are launched, around 140 mega constellation satellites can be seen at any time.
Johnson is a member of a research team of astronomers who study galaxies dominated by dark matter. The team conducted a three-year survey called DECam Local Volume Exploration (DELVE) using a Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the 4-meter Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. Last night, they took around 40 exposures of the night sky, which looked towards the big and small magellanic clouds, the two dwarf galaxies adjacent to the Milky Way. But in one of the observations, the train of Starlink satellites of SpaceX entered the field of vision around 90 minutes before sunrise. It sparkled in the morning sunlight and spent five minutes to pass through the telescope’s line of sight.