If you thought you have just seen a bunch of UFOs in the sky, the good news is they are not alien spacecraft. The bad news is they are Elon Musk’s satellites that have begun the light pollution of Earth’s low orbit. What does that mean?
There Are No UFOs Surrounding Earth, Just The Just 120 SpaceX Satellites
It all started with Starlink’s idea of making the internet more affordable everywhere, no matter how remote some areas were. However, Elon Musk did not think that this great idea would come with some side effects – the most important one being light pollution.
You see, astronomers are enraged that 120 satellites illuminate the sky so much that they are mistaken for UFOs. With the launch of a train of Starlink satellites, the reports of UFO sightings from Montana, Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan have increased.
What’s scary is not that those 120 satellites are currently in the air, shining bright and impacting astronomy. The issue is Starlink plans to launch a total of 12,000 satellites.
The American Astronomical Society has stated after the first Starlink trail was launched the following concerns: “The number of such satellites is projected to grow into the tens of thousands over the next several years, creating the potential for substantial adverse impacts to the ground- and space-based astronomy.”
Observatories Are Affected By The Satellite Mob Illuminating the Night Sky
Since observatories work at night to avoid light pollution, the artificial light reflected from many of the satellites sent in the low orbit can create artificial daylight, blocking and diminishing the study of faraway stars and celestial objects. Astronomers are already straining to see those dim objects and the artificial light coming from the satellites is making the task even harder.
Here is what 25 satellites did when the Lowell Observatory in Arizona caught their trails of reflected light in its field of view: The Observatory was trying to spot a group of galaxies on May 25, 2019.
Elon Musk stated that the swarm of satellites will have “~0% impact on advancements in astronomy,” and that he has “sent a note to Starlink team last week specifically regarding albedo reduction,” so that they will reduce the satellites’ reflectivity.
Although the problem might sound like it has been solved, who knows what would happen when competitors will begin launching their internet satellites? One night during the observation at Chile using the Dark Energy Survey’s Dark Energy Camera (DECam), observers could not perform their studies for more than 5 minutes:
Wow!! I am in shock!! The huge amount of Starlink satellites crossed our skies tonight at @cerrotololo. Our DECam exposure was heavily affected by 19 of them! The train of Starlink satellites lasted for over 5 minutes!! Rather depressing… This is not cool! pic.twitter.com/gK0ekbpLJe
— Clarae Martínez-Vázquez (@89Marvaz) November 18, 2019
It’s Not Just Light Pollution
The AAS also stated in their report that: “[Negative] impacts could include significant disruption of optical and near-infrared observations by direct detection of satellites in reflected and emitted light; contamination of radio astronomical observations by electromagnetic radiation in satellite communication bands; and collision with space-based observatories.”
Scientists continue to discuss what is allowed in space and urging everyone to be mindful of what is best for the entire world. With new tech being developed, new regulations, guidelines, and restrictions should be put in place before it is too late.