Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, an astronomer at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Coquimbo, Chile, tweeted
that the bright lights reflected by the satellites interrupt a high operated camera used to observe other galaxies.
"Wow !! I'm in shock !! The huge amount of Starlink satellites that crossed our skies tonight in [the observatory]," he said. "Our exposure to DECam was greatly affected by 19 of them! The train of satellite satellites lasted more than 5 minutes !! Instead of being depressed … It wasn't cool!"
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk began developing the project in 201
5 to boost internet connection to the ground. The hope is that more satellites will expand the bandwidth and range.
But astronomers fear that the narrower the lower Earth's orbit becomes, the more light will interfere with their telescope observations.
Satellites on Earth
Satellites can be seen from Earth, thought they were usually weak. But when their panels reflect a "burst" of sunlight back to Earth, they may appear brighter for a short time, according to National Geographic.
Illustrations of bright light can interfere with astronomical objects just below it and can trigger false signals in telescopes, Nature reported.
In March, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that there are currently more than 2,000 satellites in orbit, though that number does not include Starlink satellites.
The most visible ones, like the International Space Station, are in low Earth orbit, and are easier to see in summer, when the sun is shining for longer periods of time – thus, satellites have more time to reflect this.
And many, many satellites can join those already in orbit. SpaceX has permission from regulators to launch more than 10,000 satellites, and has recently been asked to add 30,000 more.
In response to the initial disturbance in May, Musk asserted that Starlink's satellites would not affect astronomical observations.
"There are now 4,900 satellites in orbit, which people notice ~ 0% of the time," he tweeted
. "Starlink will not be visible to anyone unless you search carefully and will have a ~ 0% impact on astronomical advances." that satellites do not interfere with their work. On a more tactical level, it also makes the base color of Starlink satellites, which hopefully will help. If it needs to, SpaceX says it can fix some of the orbits of satellites, too.
In other words: they listen.