Are Elon Musk's Starlink satellites polluting space?

In the latest issue of Nature Astronomy, scientists and astronomers have lined up against the constellations of artificial satellites in low Earth orbit, namely Starlink, by Elon Musk

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Are Elon Musk's Starlink satellites polluting space?

In the latest issue of Nature Astronomy, scientists and astronomers have lined up against the constellations of artificial satellites in low Earth orbit, namely Starlink, by Elon Musk. According to researchers, Elon Musk's Starlink satellites are an unprecedented global threat to nature and the intangible cultural heritage of the skies.

Experts have pointed out that satellites block out the view of the stars much more than street lamps, lighthouses or other light sources on the ground, seriously compromising scientific data, as well as increasing air pollution and having negative effects on animal behavior and human.

Starlink is a system of thousands of micro satellites orbiting 550 kilometers from the Earth, created to provide an internet connection even in the most remote places, but which has caused a surge in objects of human origin in space.

Since Musk put the first satellites into orbit in 2019, the total number of debris and satellites has doubled, contributing to a rapidly growing human-caused light pollution, which scientists associate with air pollution.

Researchers said: "Direct illumination by sunlight. remnants of launch hardware and fragments, makes them visible as streaks or trails in optical and infrared astronomical images."

About Starlink

Starlink is a constellation of satellites currently under construction by the American private aerospace manufacturer SpaceX for low-latency broadband global satellite internet access.

The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced miniaturized satellites placed in low-Earth orbit working in concert with ground-based transceivers. SpaceX also intends to commercialize some of its satellites for military, scientific and exploration purposes.

Concerns have been raised about the long-term effects and damages of space debris resulting from the release of thousands of satellites into orbits above 1000 km. Subsequently it was decided to use orbits around 550 km, relatively safer because they allow the debris to decay in less time.

Other criticisms relate to a possible negative impact on observational astronomy activities, which SpaceX has announced it intends to resolve. As of June 2020, one of the constellation's satellites has an experimental coating specifically designed to make it less reflective and therefore less visible to astronomical observations from the ground.

SpaceX activated a private beta service in the United States in August 2020 and launched a public beta service in October 2020, active only at high latitudes. SpaceX is currently able to deliver 60 satellites into orbit per launch and aims to deploy an additional 1,500 satellites by the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.