back to article Astroboffins peeved as SpaceX's Starlink sats block meteor spotting – and could make us miss a killer asteroid

Skywatchers in Spain recording meteors being transformed into brilliant streaks of light by atmospheric compression are a bit miffed – as their view was rudely interrupted by a slew of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites. Below is a short clip of what it looked like above La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands last week. The …

  1. STOP_FORTH
    Unhappy

    Not a problem in UK

    Woke up early to see this meteor shower. It was cloudy, went back to bed. Didn't see any of Muskie's birds either.

    1. Nathanial Wapcaplet

      Re: Not a problem in UK

      I see a lot of musky birds out on a dark nights but they usually kick my zimmer and to tell me to "sod off grandad and put it away"

  2. Spindreams

    Solution: Tell musky he has to also launch 1 mini space telescope satellite for each 1000 starlink satalites he launches which must be made available to global meteor hunters for free, and placed where they can best protect the planet.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Unfortunately that's not really a viable option.

      Check out SWAB:

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/11/27/this-is-why-we-cant-just-do-all-of-our-astronomy-from-space

      The video simulation of the full 12,00 appears about half way down, and you can see why it'll be an issue.

      This one has an image showing the effect of the 60 that are already up:

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/11/20/this-is-how-elon-musk-can-fix-the-damage-his-starlink-satellites-are-causing-to-astronomy

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        "Unfortunately that's not really a viable option."

        Especially when it comes to watching meteor showers, given that the whole point is that they're not actually in space.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Wouldn't a meteor show up pretty well in IR if you looked down at the atmosphere? Possibly even on the day side.

          (From reading around it seems that currently the only IR detectors looking at the Earth's atmosphere are the ones used for tracking ballistic missiles, and unsurprisingly no one is letting scientists use them)

          1. vtcodger Silver badge

            TIRS

            There is a downlooking IR sensor array on Landsat 8 -- acronym TIRS. It seems to have excellent spatial resolution, but only for a fairly narrow swath (185km) of surface under the satellite. High resolution IR scans of the whole planet would require enormous bandwidth. Like communications satellites downlooking IR sensing satellites probably require several satellites. And they'd probably need on-orbit data analysis to keep the amount of data downloaded within reasonable limits. And they probably wouldn't cover the polar regions well.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Good links

        Good links. Well worth reading. But seriously, astronomers are clever people and these satellites are point sources of light. Unlike light pollution which is dimmer, but probably next to impossible to mitigate. My bet would be that filtering the satellite tracks out of astronomical images will turn out in the long run to be more of a nuisance than an existential threat to ground based astronomy. It'll presumably take money -- probably quite a lot of it -- to clean the images up. And who better to pay the tab than SpaceX?

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      No, this is not a solution. And please stop spreading the idea further. The article linked above provides a clear explanation as to why. Space based astronomy can do great things, but it can't do everything that ground based telescopes can do. One cannot fully replace the other.

      1. Balding Greybeard

        Did We Miss @Spindream’s Point?

        “ Solution: Tell musky he has to also launch 1 mini space telescope satellite for each 1000 starlink satalites he launches which must be made available to global meteor hunters for free, and placed where they can best protect the planet.”

        Use case, “meteor hunters”.

        There are many use cases that space based telescopes would be superior.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Most of Ethan's points linked above only apply to previously launched (e.g. Hubble) and near-future satellite-type space telescopes.

        All of the issues can be overcome - in the future - by building bases on the moon, other bodies, or even significantly large space stations. Once a significant space-based economy can be developed, 50-100 years, all of those points are refuted.

        Astronomy and other scientific purposes are a much better use-case for proposed moon bases than the current dick-waving contest that it currently is.

        Science, especially cosmology, is long-term research. It doesn't matter if there is a window, 10-20 years, where ground-based cosmological observation is degraded - even effectively eliminated. By undertaking Musk's, and others investing in similar space-industry based strategies, will get us to viable space-based economy sooner. Bringing down the costs to make other, more price-sensitive projects viable.

        The astronomers, cosmologists, are being very narrow-minded in their objections, short-term thinking - for people who explore events that cover billions of years - personal career and research-project focused. As can bee seen from Ethan's comments:

        Astronomy's near-term plans include large (10-meter class) telescopes that are being commissioned to perform differential imaging on the entire sky. They will search for variable stars, transient events, Earth-hazardous objects, and more. These plans include the world's first 30-meter class telescopes, including the GMT and the ELT. Unfortunately, unless we're careful, these upcoming, cutting-edge observatories may never be able to fulfill their science goals.

        I love astronomy and cosmology, I like following it, the latest observations - imaging sag A*, LIGO black hole detections - but my response to this is still "so?".

        It is very short sighted, focused on on - as he said - near-term projects, personal careers and research projects.

        Focus on the future. If Musk and his ilk keep going, bringing down the cost of access to space, maybe in 50 years there will be a half-dozen 30-meter telescopes scattered over the moon.

        1. 96percentchimp

          So good of you and Musk to make the decision on behalf of the astronomical community, after they've committed funding to Earth-based telescopes that will take a decade or more to complete. Let's hope we don't miss that killer asteroid in the >20-year window before space-based astronomy comes into the range of most professional astronomers and the enormously important amateur community.

          Maybe if Musk had bothered to ask in advance, both sides could have worked on mitigation and compensation during the design stage instead of being forced into confrontation by one socially-inept billionaire's arrogance.

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Maybe we should stop allowing billionaires to launch communications satellites using technology which will be obsolete long before they stop being a nuisance.

            The US has decided it rules the world, time for it to grow up and show some responsibility. Oh dear...

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Pint

              Maybe we should stop allowing billionaires to launch communications satellites using technology which will be obsolete long before they stop being a nuisance.

              I think the loss of resources will be the bigger nuisance.

              Pushing these things to orbit takes a considerable amount of resources and creates a lot of pollution. But what's worse, something I read after the first launch suggested that each of these sattelites will have a relatively short lifespan and "harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere".

              Except it isn't harmless. Even though each satellite may be quite small, there's finite resources including I expect some relatively rare and "precious" materials in use. When they "harmlessly burn up" those resources are lost. Sure, they'll eventually drift down to earth, but not in an amount or location were they can easily be recovered. For the cost of the launch, both in resources and money, I'm sure we could build a stellar ground-based network that would give him the worldwide cheap internet he claims he wants to provide.

              And with all the 'global warming' fears, what is the damage caused by all those satellite launches? I expect they tend to use oxygen and hydrogen as the main fuel which is harmless (if you ignore water vapour being classed as a major GW contributor!, but there must be other materials released during launch and of course during the burning up of anything that falls back into the atmosphere. And of course the mining of materials etc...

              This is truly wasteful, and I'm surprised at some of the people who elsewhere are very much on the "global warming" bandwagon yet support musk and his rather selfish and ill-thought out plans.

              So much for the "short-term thinking " claim of eldakka above - yes I'm someone who loves looking at the night sky (and sometimes I make sure my travel plans are at night so I can get somewhere countryside and enjoy the un-polluted sky for a few hours) but I also love the planet and the environment, and someone messing it up further for such selfish reasons as musk is doing.. Think of the future people - while space may be where we can see some big improvements in humanity's outlook, tossing this musky wank-fest into the sky isn't going to help us at all!

          2. eldakka Silver badge

            How good of the astronomical community to make the decision to hold back humanity's expansion into space because their personal research projects on events that, while hugely interesting, have no bearing on humanity's day to day life, even though in the long run that expansion into space will greatly expand astronomical research's capabilities far beyond what we have today.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              WTF?

              How good of the astronomical community to make the decision to hold back humanity's expansion into space

              This starlink crap isn't going to make the least bit of difference to our heading to space.

              All it's going to do is mess up our atmosphere even more.

              What gives musk the right to make decisions about my quality of life without so much as even asking anyone in my country?

              In the words of the wonderful Mr Floyd... "Just 5 minutes, Worm your honour. Him and me alone." Although by now no doubt there's a rather large queue that I'm at the back of. And look - we still have plenty of throwing microscopes.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      It is not just 12,000, he intends to launch a total of 42,000 Starlinks by the late '20's. Presumably by then they will be able to arrange constellations so on a clear night you will be able to see a 'full-sky' Tesla ad.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

    Well it looks like, once 12000 of those birds are in place, the prediction will depend on how many get hit on a given day.

    Which is not going to increase the orbital garbage problem, no sir.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

      It's time for an international near space regulating authority with teeth but that's never going to happen until serious consequences of a cluttered near have led or are about to lead to a disaster of epic proportions.

      Profit trumps humanity and the ecosphere every time.

      1. Brangdon

        Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

        It's really not that cluttered. Space is big, and these satellites know where they are and autonomously move themselves to avoid collisions. This is an issue that everyone directly involved already knows about and works to mitigate.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

          I'm not sure how you can get downvotes for "space is big".

          1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

            Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

            I think the ratio (at time of writing) is correct: 1 upvote for "Space is big", 10 downvotes for the rest of the comment which is BS. We were talking about the risks of collisions between meteoroids and spacecraft. Collision-avoidance mechanisms are designed to avoid satellites crashing into one another, not to avoid being hit by a piece of rock on its way to Earth.

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

              And why does that matter?

              All of these objects, while in space as defined by the entirely arbitrary 100km limit, are still in the Earths atmosphere and experience atmospheric drag. Once they lose station-keeping power (e.g. destroyed in a collision), they will, over a period of a few months to a few years depending on which LEO orbit they are in, de-orbit and burn up in the thicker parts of the atmosphere, thus taking care of their own 'space junk'.

              1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

                Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

                It doesn't matter what happens to the Starlink satellites. What matters is that astroboffins need to be able to study meteor showers in order to understand the risk they pose to other spacecraft that we care about (think ISS). And the Starlink satellites make studying these showers more difficult.

              2. Kiwi Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

                they will, over a period of a few months to a few years depending on which LEO orbit they are in, de-orbit and burn up in the thicker parts of the atmosphere

                Now if I was a person who cared about "global warming" (I'm not), or a person who cared about pollution (I am), or a person who cares about dwindling resources (I am) and the damage mining does to the environment (ditto), I'd be quite pissed about all of that stuff musk et al are launching knowing it will not be up there long and will "just burn up in the atmosphere".

                If musk thinks that stuff is perfectly fine for all of us to breath and have stuff burning up in the upper atmosphere, he should demonstrate and lead by example. (though I wouldn't really want him burning up in the atmosphere in case I breath a few particles of it myself).

          2. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

            Re: downvotes for "Accurate [..] predictions are..."

            Possibly for a politician-like answer to the question "How are we supposed to see through these blinding monstrosities?" - "Space is big" is completely irrelevant, the comment about entire constellations of satellites avoiding collisions is irrelevant (and, unless that nice Mr Musk has come up with some sort of electrically-powered limitless thruster, completely impossible in the long term) and it does nothing to address the real issue of the satellites blocking the view from the ground.

            On a slightly positive note, once the sky is filled with all the separate internet relay satellites, TV satellites, phone satellites, spy satellites, weather / climate change observation satellites, killer asteroid-spotting satellites, etc, it will be impossible for any asteroid to actually get through and hit us anyway... at least, not in the short time before all life on Earth is extinguished when the sun's rays can't get through either :-(

          3. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

            Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

            He deservedly gets down-voted for "space is big" because:

            (a) from a ground-based point of view everything in orbit is effectively a set of moving dots on a zero thickness screen so their actual dispersion through a 3D volume of space with a 58,000 km radius is quite irrelevant.

            (b) it fails to recognise that satellites tend to use a set of shells depending on their function (LEO, NEO, GPS, geo-stationery, etc) so the density of satellites in each shell is much higher than a simple 'space is big' statement ever considers. Musk's ridiculously large swarm is intended to mostly be in one orbital shell at 550km, so good luck with autonomous dodging when there are 12,000 of them in that shell. Can they automatically de-orbit when fuel gets low, or is that something that's also been forgotten?

            (c) Musk's 'autonomously maneuvering' swarm are probably not predictable enough to schedule telescope time - especially if Space-X 'forgets' to update orbital parameters in real time. Besides, its not clear if said autonomous satellites even tell Space-X what its new orbit is and when it switched to it.

            1. stiine Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

              Check my maths.

              The radius of the earth (average) is 6371000000m

              The Starlnk satellites will be orbiting at approx 350000m altitude.

              Each satellite is approx 2mx2m

              There will be 20k satellites.

              These will cover 80000sq m

              According to google, there were about 800 satellites in LEO before Starlink which cover 3200 sq m. w/o accounting for their solar arrays which could increase this number by a significant amount.

              Google also says there are 670,000 pieces of junk larger than 1cm in LEO and 29,000 larger than 10cm. This is 357sq m worth of junk.

              If we add those together, we get 3557 sq m

              The area of the 350k orbital sphere is ‭510,120,515,692,197,533,116. sq. m

              The area covered by 20800 satellites plus junk will be ‭83,557 sq m or 0.000000000000001638% of that sphere.

              Also, the statement about not being able to do in orbit what we do on the ground is a easy to dispute by explaining that the earth moves. Its position in space is affected by the moon and the planets (and their moons), its also in orbit around the sun which is itself orbiting the center of the galaxy which is moving. It simply requires an additional vector in their calculations.

              1. pmb00cs

                Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

                Yes, the total percentage of the sky covered by these satellites will be quite small.

                But what portion of the light entering ground based telescopes will be reflections off these satellites?

                Simplifying matters somewhat, we want to look at incredibly distant stars, which means exposure times suitable for very little light, and then a wacking great reflection from a starlink satellite streaks across your image. Well bugger, we'll just have to try that again!! How many such exposures are going to be messed up like that?

                1. IT Poser

                  Re: How many such exposures are going to be messed up like that?

                  Not that many since most astronomers have transitioned away from photographic plates.

                  What you should be asking is how many pixels will be corrupted. While this varies depending on the setup, we're talking a small fraction. There's no free lunch here but it isn't the end of astronomy either.

                  1. pmb00cs

                    Re: How many such exposures are going to be messed up like that?

                    They don't use photographic plates, they use cmos (and other related) electronic sensors. But that doesn't change the physics of how focusing optics function. Over exposure will bleed out into neighbouring pixels. Preventing that takes more than clever post processing. There's a reason DSLR camera's still have physical shutters. Too much light for the exposure still ruins the exposure. Especially on exposures measured in minutes.

              2. ridley

                Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

                I am having trouble determining what you are getting at here.

                Are you really suggesting the the advantage with space telescopes is that they are in s different position do get a different view? Or possibly are you saying that because they are in space they have a stationary platform?

                Telescopes on the ground have a huge advantage over space based ones as they can be huge. Names such as VLT, Very large telescope, ELT extremely large telescope and the OWL Overwhelmingly large telescope give the game away.bring big they can gather more light and have a greater resolving power.

                As for calculating the area of the sky occluded you are forgetting that they are moving, astronomers take images over seconds/minutes/hours so the chance of a satellite streaking across the image is high. Esp with 12000 in leo.

            2. pmb00cs

              Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

              Also, 'autonomously manoeuvring' supposes that the satellites never suffer a failure of their control systems, or their manoeuvring systems. Space is big, but orbital velocities are also big, and cross orbital collisions impart enough energy to really mess things up. One of these satellites fails to the point it doesn't avoid another one crossing it's path and *BOOM* that's an awful lot of unpredictable, high velocity, difficult to track, debris that is going to start upsetting anything else on that approximate orbital level, like the rest of the constellation.

              I believe a man much smarter than I once described such a possibility. Kessler syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

          Near space is very much cluttered but the problem is the size of the debris which can be a fleck of paint or less than a fraction of a millimetre. And no, satellites. do not "autonomously move themselves to avoid collisions" especially if the debris can not be seen or detected. Read about the RemoveDEBRIS project, which attempts to deflect debris into entering our atmosphere, and thus burning up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

      Except these satellites orbit at an altitude that guarantees they'll de-orbit relatively quickly without repeated adjustments to maintain altitude.

      They start at an altitude low enough to de-orbit in a few weeks, which means that any of the birds that have failed at launch won't stay up long. The then raise their altitude to a higher orbit that still undergoes significant drag. SpaceX's entire plan has worked on the assumption that the satellites have a relatively short life and require regular replacement.

      There are a lot of reasons to be sceptical of these things, but an increase in space junk - perhaps ironically - isn't one of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Accurate [..] predictions are essential for understanding the hazard they pose to spacecraft"

        This. But many have failed to realise it. And gone "off on one" instead.

        Yes, there can be problems. Should we dig holes, build walls, lay roads? All of these have risks, all change the "landscape", but should we work to make better roads and saferwalls, or just complain about them?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Orbital data

    If the orbits of all relevant pieces of space hardware are precisely known, their positions in images could also be calculated and accounted for. It's not rocket science, which is probably why the rocket scientists haven't done it yet.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Orbital data

      Yeah, right. And they won't obscure the objects the boffins are trying to see and they won't mess with the observations by being f'ing bright in comparison to what the astronomers are trying to spot.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Orbital data

      That's not how astronomical observations work.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Orbital data

        I don't understand the downvoter, sure, you can say that's a satellite and not an asteroid, but if the satellite is hindering the discovery of an asteroid behind it, that's an issue.

        It's not like your making a selfie and you're removing a pimple to look better.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Behind it.

          An asteroid does not orbit behind a satellite. I don't believe the math allows for them to have such an orbit. One will process in front/behind the other.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            An asteroid does not orbit behind a satellite.

            If the satellite is much brighter and on the line of sight of an asteroid, it will hide whatever is behind,

            especially if the satellite is very bright and its light will spill on nearby pixels. You need multiple images took in different days of a moving object to understand what it is and try to calculate an orbit, and the object may be in the best position to be tracked for a short time only, then it could become too faint to be detected and tracked.

            Adds a lot of them, and trying to find and track unknown faint object will become much harder.

            Moreover you will have to process heavily each image to remove all those bright spots.

            Again, taking valid scientific images is different from taking a selfie.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Orbital data

      Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the orbital elements of all significant objects in Earth Orbit were tracked and a summary was published monthly(?) by TRW. I think it likely that something along that line is still done. Here's a link to a reddit thread that seems to address the issue https://www.reddit.com/r/aerospace/comments/2n05bz/a_free_space_systems_handbook_by_northrop_grumman/

      BUT, many of the damned things (satellites) can maneuver a bit. And they have slowly but steadily been getting better at the maneuver thing. So they may not always be where the last published set of orbital parameters would lead you to think they should be.

  5. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    I wonder

    On one side (big) profit, on the other side science. I really wonder who will win this fight...

    Who needs a future if you can have a couple million bucks right now? "Après moi le déluge", as they say.

    1. tony72

      Re: I wonder

      Who needs a future...

      Bit dramatic, don't you think? I'm personally very keen on us becoming a properly space-faring civilization, and that is bound to involve us putting more and more stuff in space, around this planet and elsewhere. I'm sure that is going to cause some issues for ground-based astronomers, but I can't see us halting all exploitation of space because of that, so we'll all just have to knuckle down and focus on mitigation and make the best of it. But it's certainly not the end of the world.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: I wonder

        > Bit dramatic, don't you think?

        Honestly, no.

        I have no problem with people making money, but what we have here is a vague vanity project being detrimental to the common good. As for your argument "can't see us halting all exploitation because of that", it excuses any abuse. Do you draw the line somewhere?

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: I wonder

        Depends doesn’t it. If Cixin Liu is right and it’s a Dark Forest out there then we need to be careful as well. Our inability to spot any other advanced civilisations might well be because they are all hunkered down and staying quiet lest they get noticed and attacked.

        The longer SETI and others look and listen and find nothing then the more ominous it looks. Estimates of suitable planets in the galaxy make it pretty much inevitable that we are not alone. Increasingly the idea of the RNA world looks like the way to bootstrap your way from replicating polymers to Life. We have now found ribonucleotides in meteorites and in space. Meaning getting the replicators going is a matter of chemistry.

        Okay not every genesis will yield intelligent beings, took Earth long enough but enough of a large number will. All the animals who have passed the mirror test for sentience are social animals. So as soon as you get sociality in large animals consciousness is achievable.

        Technologies are achievable by smaller animals. The ants discovered both agrarian and livestock farming before us humans did. Termites build air conditioned skyscrapers. If those are available for the social insects they are just as available for social large animals.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: I wonder

          They also discovered slavery and mercenaries. The latter still amuses me.

  6. LDS Silver badge
    Alien

    We don't need to watch for asteroids...

    ... if we need 12,000 small satellites to transmit up and down Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter c**p - only an asteroid impact can save Earth.

    1. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: We don't need to watch for asteroids...

      And that, bluntly is the root the problem. Musk like the other mega-rich egomaniacs (Bezos et al) are only interested in the money. They just want to get their crap up for the lowest cost so that they can sign up another billion or so people to collect and monetarize their data. All this bullshit about making Internet accessible in developing and remote counties is just a façade for the real gain.

      It is all about data and gathering as much as possible. What the hell happens when competing companies each put their own swarms up who knows. The entire scheme on the cubesats or micro satellites is a total disaster and is going to end with totally unusable orbits because they have filled it with bits of junk in the name of progress.

  7. Julz Bronze badge

    The Dark Side

    Perhaps this could be used to get some money and provide a motivation to put telescopes on the far side of the moon which is a good place for them for any number of reasons.

    1. awoze

      Re: The Dark Side

      Not just the far side... all over :)

    2. KSM-AZ
      Happy

      Re: The Dark Side

      "There is no 'Dark Side Of The Moon' . . . It's all dark."

    3. Timbo

      Re: The Dark Side

      "put telescopes on the far side of the moon which is a good place for them"

      But there are plenty of downsides to this:

      1) No radio comms carrying colected data from the "far side" back to Earth - so, a moon orbiting relay satellite might be required...

      2) Temperature fluctuations will cause significant issues whilst these are in use...and temps are dependant on whether the far side is receiving sunlight or is in darkness or somewhere in between... so that will require some good engineering to be able to cope with that.

      3) Power requirements might be tricky, so one assumes a good sized solar panel array would be needed to collect sunlight and provide electricity.

      4) Servicing and updating components might be tricky if humans are required to carry this out.

      5) Getting the scopes built in the first place will be tricky and expensive. Humans have only recently been building large-ish space telescopes (Hubble, James Watt, etc) and these are just in orbit. Building such scopes on the moon surface will take some time.

      So, long term, maybe moon-based scopes if possible...but you'd save a lot of money just by building it on Earth....and by Musk filling the sky with his Starlink devices is just going to make sky observations much harder, even if one can build some software to help "mask out" any satellites that are obscuring things....

      Much easier not to have so many devices in the night sky and then it's easier to make the observations...and without further complications?

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Erm...

    I have watched the video several times and I can't see it!

    Where in blue blazes is it in the time lapse video?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Erm...

      Oh wait re-reading the article it appears to be about 6 seconds in where it looks like machine gun fire.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm...

        Pew, pew.

        Open fire! All weapons!

        Pew, pew-pew. Pew.

  10. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Curiousity

    For example, observations during twilight are very important for the asteroid community, as potentially hazardous asteroids are best seen during this time.”

    Why so? Curious why twighlight is better than full darkness.

    1. renniks

      Re: Curiousity

      That's when there's a chance to observe an asteroid that may be approaching from the direction of the sun I think

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Curiousity

      Several reasons - i.e. if they're inside the Earth orbit you can't see them in full darkness (just like Venus and even more so Mercury). Or they can end up in the Earth shadow if they're close enough (just like the Moon can)

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Curiousity

        Giuseppe Lagrangia called and wants you to put observation satellites where he suggested.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Curiousity

          Until we have better space vehicles, putting anytihng in L points is expensive and non serviceable.

          1. FeepingCreature

            Re: Curiousity

            Why it would sure be great if some dude was working on better space vehicles.

            One sure would wish that the space community wouldn't shit all over that dude as he worked to get them way cheaper access to space.

            Cough.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Curiousity

              One sure would wish that the space community wouldn't shit all over that dude as he worked to get them way cheaper access to space.

              He isn't doing it for that. He's doing it for more profit and fame for himself.

              In the process he'll be shitting all over billions of other people, just for his own reasons.

              What, you think all those sattelites are made of harmless materials that are readily available and generate no pollution in their making or burning up in our atmosphere? Our one and only atmosphere that, when we're finished screwing it up, we don't get another? (except in the unlikely event we are a space-fairing people by then - except musks garbage will foul it up even quicker)

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Curiousity

      Curious why twighlight is better than full darkness.

      I'm not an astronomer and the geometry is kind of tricky, but I think rocks that constitute a significant threat to the Earth are likely to be in (or at least near) the ecliptic plane and to be either approaching the Earth from behind or being overtaken by the Earth. I think that'd put them overhead at dawn(overtaken?) or dusk (overtaking?). Also if they were overhead at midnight, the Earth facing side would be more or less completely dark whereas at dawn/sunset they'd be half illuminated?

      Like I said, I'm not an astronomer and may just have proved it.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Curiousity

        Yep, proved my lack of skill. Upon further reflection, overhead at midnight would be fully illuminated (unless it's in the Earth's shadow). But, I'm pretty sure, it'd be much less likely to strike the Earth than a rock that's more or less in the same orbit as Earth.

    4. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Curiousity

      --- Curious why twighlight is better than full darkness. ---

      Very few asteroids are fitted with approved lighting, and many of those so fitted have long ago drained their batteries. That said, the discovery of such an asteroid would be pretty cool!

      (not to say "Earth Shattering")

    5. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Curiousity

      Cheers for replies. I learned most of my orbital dynamics at the Kerbal University. And crash a lot.. Or miss. Fun though..

    6. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Curiousity

      Indeed, not all directions are equal. Draw sun and earth on its orbit on a piece of paper, and look where the terminator (dawn/dusk line) point to: One points in the direction where we're going, and the other one looks behind us. While some boulder rear-ending us is still pretty bad, the speeds of the asteroid and earth subtract, while in a frontal collision they would add up, so this sector is the one where we definitely do not want to see anything coming towards us!

    7. ttlanhil

      Re: Curiousity

      > Why so? Curious why twighlight is better than full darkness.

      twilight is sparklier

  11. locojoe

    12000? More like 42000!

    Put them up or there will be no way of getting those really big space telescopes up there, much bigger than can be built on earth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 12000? More like 42000!

      India and China are going to want their own constellations. Bezos might try to one-up Space X, too.

      Who's going to deny them?

  12. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Reflective solar panels?

    Reflective solar panels? Why not make them non-reflective? After all, the goal of the solar panels is to COLLECT solar panel, not bounce it back to earth and blind meteor detectors.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Reflective solar panels?

      If they're not reflected, they're absorbed, and a lot of the solar frequencies are not practical for photovoltaics: only a pretty narrow range. Plus, remember that space is a vacuum; the most-efficient methods of heat transfer require the fluid of an atmosphere to work. Thus why heat management is actually a pretty serious thing in satellites.

  13. ExpatZ

    Doubt it will have any effect at all on nocturnal wildlife and it certainly will NOT interfere with NEO searches, these are moving objects that have known trajectories that can be removed from the sample data easily and quickly without a ton of extra programming required.

    Yes they will upset visual observers with their transits but so do all the others as well, usually I just try to track and resolve them anyway as an amateur.

    The real problem here is the orbital congestion creating a bubble around the planet that is very difficult to launch through safely.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Upvoted but...

      Not correct on the launch options. This can also be tracked and accounted for (as air traffic already is).

      It's unintended consequences, and a change in the status quo that are partialo problems.

      Question is, do we change or do we stay the same? I see no problem with not having 24/7 satellite internet. But others do.

  14. STü 32

    Incorrect figures

    This article states that starlink will be 12,000 strong... Elon has recently been granted permission to launch another 30,000 on top of that figure, so there will actually be 42,000 starlink satellites orbiting earth... You may ask how this can be allowed as I did!!?... As usual with stuff like this the trail leads to the military!!

  15. Aussie Doc
    Mushroom

    Wait!

    I'm still waiting for my space-faring sharks with frickin' lasers - both satellites and miscreant comets sorted.

  16. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Cars.

    Do you know how many cars there are? They are everywhere.

    Houses.

    Roads.

    Lamp posts.

    All things that are not natural, and have changed the landscape with our invention of them. I agree, all of these are a annoyance.

    Can we live without them? Can we change the current culture and situation? I doubt it. We can do our best around it though. But should I complain cars exist? (IMO the world would be more interesting without them. ;) ).

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Cars.

      "Interesting" in the sense of the Chinese proverb, presumably!

  17. M E H

    Is there a chance that with enough Musksats circling the earth any asteroid will hit one of them, thus removing both from orbit and solving two problems at once?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We typically don't see the pollution we create for what it is

    until it has become nearly unbearable or worse. The foresighted who caution us about the nocturnal life of other species - among other issues - are to be applauded.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: We typically don't see the pollution we create for what it is

      Ah, the Precautionary Principle - "Ugg, don't use that burning stick - who knows what will happen!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We typically don't see the pollution we create for what it is

        More like "Ugg, you can call me a coward, but I don't feel too good about lighting our camp fire smack in the middle of that dry grass prairie..."

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: We typically don't see the pollution we create for what it is

      Yup.

      42,000 of these things. There'll be one burning up in the atmosphere every few hours (plus no doubt groups launched together will also tend to fall at close to the same time). There's the mining and processing of resources to make them - resources we can't get back (at least not till we find asteroids with them), and all the pollution and ecosystem-destruction that goes with that.

      And for those afeared of 'global warming' or 'climate change' - what's all those launches (and the mostly water vapour from the exhaust) and objects burning up in the atmosphere going to do for that?

      Oh, and don't forget the earth-based units that have to have enough power to transmit to reach the sats (or are they going to require earthbound base stations for the upload side of things? more pollution!)

      musk could build a terrestial-based wankfest that'd prove he really was doing this for altruistic reasons. But no, he has to go and visually pollute our night skies, chemically pollute our atmosphere, and destroy too much of the dwindling natural beauty of this planet, all so people will speak his name. Hope you like the things I say about you musk - they're not particularly pleasant. People like you almost make me wish 'hell' was real.

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