Telescopes at Lowell Observatory in Arizona captured this shot of galaxies May 25. Their image was marred by the reflected light from more than 25 Starlink satellites as they passed overhead. (Credit: Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory)
American Astronomical Society Statement
On May 23rd entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX launched 60 Starlink communication satellites aboard a single rocket. Within days skywatchers worldwide spotted them flying in formation as they orbited Earth and reflected sunlight from their shiny metal surfaces. Some people, unaware that artificial satellites can be seen moving against the starry background every clear night, reported UFO sightings. Astronomers, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were seeing — and immediately began to worry.
SpaceX had suggested that the satellites would be visible just barely, if at all. But for a few days after launch the Starlink constellation shone as brightly as many astronomical constellations, and SpaceX intends to launch thousands more such spacecraft as part of an effort to provide internet service to everyone in the world. “I think it’s commendable and very impressive engineering to spread the information and opportunities made possible by internet access,” says Megan Donahue (Michigan State University), President of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), ...