Astronomers are getting concerned about the growing number of Starlink and other satellites

Astronomers are getting concerned about the growing number of Starlink and other satellites
A bright Starlink satellite streak that can affect astronomical observations. Caltech
  • The growing number of Starlink and other satellites are becoming a concern for satellites.
  • The bright light streaks left by these satellites can affect astronomical observations.
  • To address these concerns, the International Astronomical Union has formed a centre.
SpaceX launched 49 more satellites last week to join the growing constellation of over 1,800 satellites. The Elon Musk-owned company has the approval to set up a total of 12,000 Starlink satellites to provide broadband connectivity. But the growing number of satellites not just from SpaceX but other companies too is a growing concern for astronomers.

The satellite-crowded space can affect astronomical observations, and to help work on this issue, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has launched the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference. This centre is aimed at helping solve these issues with not just astronomers but satellite operators from different countries.

“The IAU embraces the principle of a dark and radio-quiet sky, not only as essential to advancing our understanding of the Universe of which we are a part, but also for the cultural heritage of all humanity and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife,” the IAU said in a statement.

Satellite constellations can affect astronomical observations since they reflect sunlight and leave bright streaks of light. Astronomers observing the night sky for any object can be disturbed by these light streaks. This concern was particularly raised by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory, California which said that twilight observations are getting affected by the bright appearance of the Starlink satellites. This could make it difficult to search for objects like comets and asteroids.

The IAU hopes that this centre will help in addressing matters concerning the growing number of satellite constellations. It will provide information and resources regarding the “negative impact of satellite constellations on ground-based optical and radio astronomy observations as well as humanity’s enjoyment of the night sky.”


The centre has already received positive feedback from other astronomical organisations including Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Members of the centre are primarily located in Tucson, Arizona, USA, and Jodrell Bank, near Manchester, United Kingdom but it will cater to institutions and individuals globally.

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