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Astronomers voice concerns after SpaceX deploys 60 more Starlink satellites

Experts in the field say launching more satellites could disrupt their work

Photo (c) aapsky - Getty Images
SpaceX successfully deployed 60 satellites into orbit on Monday, further advancing founder Elon Musk’s goal of building out a network of devices capable of providing internet access to almost everyone on the planet. 

Musk has already received FCC approval to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit as part of a mission dubbed “Starlink.” In October, Musk filed documents requesting approval to deploy an additional 30,000 satellites. 

While Musk strongly believes the broadband-beaming satellites will be of great global benefit, astronomers have raised concern that the array of artificial objects hovering above Earth will adversely affect their job. 

“If there are lots and lots of bright moving objects in the sky, it tremendously complicates our job,” James Lowenthal, an astronomer at Smith College, told The New York Times. “It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself.”

Hindrance to astronomer views

Astronomer Anthony Tyson of the University of California added that larger telescopes could be the most affected by the satellites’ presence since they require longer exposure times. He said the Starlink constellation could get in the way of whatever astronomers may be trying to view.

“It’s really a mess,” Tyson told the Times. 

Over the summer, Musk responded to a debate on the issue on Twitter, saying SpaceX was looking into ways to minimize the satellites’ reflectivity. He added that the satellites would have "0% impact on advancements in astronomy" and argued that giving "billions of economically disadvantaged people" high-speed internet access is “the greater good."

“That said, we’ll make sure Starlink has no material effect on discoveries in astronomy,” he said. “We care a great deal about science.”

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