Astronomers accuse Elon Musk of blocking stars with Starlink satellites Business

Astronomers have warned that Elon Musk’s Starlink risks blocking stars to deep space telescopes and jeopardizing hundreds of millions of pounds of British investment in space exploration.

The Royal Astronomical Society has claimed that networks threatening to cover the night sky with small low-orbiting satellites could blind observatories with light pollution and radio interference.

Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the company, warned that a “large sum of public money” could be wasted if investments in radio telescopes were blinded by thousands of satellites.

Mr. Musk’s Starlink, part of his rocket company SpaceX, plans to launch more than 12,000 satellites that will hopefully provide internet connectivity to remote areas of the planet.

Rival companies, such as OneWeb, which is backed by the UK government, and Amazon are also planning to launch hundreds of satellites to provide rural broadband.

But astronomers have warned it will create light pollution that will make it harder for amateur astronomers to spot planets and stars in the night sky.

They also argue that investments in radio telescopes, which use radio waves to research the origins of the universe, could be at risk due to interference.

Among these are the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a large radio telescope in the Australian outback designed for deep space observation that has been in development for 30 years, and the Jodrell Bank Center near Manchester.

The government has pledged £ 270million towards the SKA’s current £ 1.5 billion cost and spends tens of millions of pounds each year on other observatories.

Mr. Massey said: “These communications satellites require powerful downlinks. Historically, you would put a radio telescope in a remote location without interference.

“But if you have a constellation of satellites by design covering the surface of the earth, there’s nothing you can do about it. In a pessimistic scenario, we close a window on the universe.

The SKA and the Royal Astronomical Society have complained to Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, asking it to regulate the expansion of satellite constellations, including their impact on astronomy under conditions of license.

Mr Massey said there was an additional risk of unregulated expansion of satellite launches from China or Russia. He said, “We can talk to Starlink and OneWeb, but can we have the same conversation with companies in China or Russia if they are launching systems? “

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This notice was published: 2021-12-02 17:39:58

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