Satellite ‘trains’ light up British Columbia, but astronomers say they’re bad for research

It was an unusually starry night in Kitimat, British Columbia, Tuesday when Louis Godfrey saw a streak of light moving across the sky.

Godfrey spotted the star-like thing around 9:15 p.m. while out hiking with her husband — one of more than 40 people she saw that night, moving east in a straight line, she says.

“I happened to look up when we turned the corner into the dark space, and I noticed a string of lights like little pearls dancing in the sky,” she said.

“You can’t miss them.”

Godfrey is one of many in British Columbia who has seen trains of satellites launched into space by SpaceX, the California-based spacecraft manufacturer founded by Elon Musk in 2002.

During the first two years of the project, residents of eastern Canada – in places like NewfoundlandAnd the Ontario And the new bronze Watch the moons above it.

Recently they were spotted in British Columbia, with scenes of Vancouver Island to northern BC, according to website who tracks their backs.

Since 2019, SpaceX has launched more than 3,000 communications satellites into orbit for its Starlink network, at an altitude of about 550 kilometers, to provide Internet services to remote and rural areas around the world.

Starlink satellite internet from SpaceX is being tested in remote areas of Canada

Elon Musk’s new satellite internet service is being tested by some Canadians in rural and remote parts of the country. It’s supposed to give them a high-speed, high-quality internet connection, but it’s not cheap and some say Starlink’s low-orbit satellites are ruining their view of the night sky.

Conventional communications satellites generally orbit more than 20,000 km above Earth, but Starlink satellites are smaller in order to reduce network latency and delay.

Last weekend, the company It launched 34 Starlink satellites From the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to its website. SpaceX says it plans to launch 40,000 more satellites in the coming years.

Fears over the night sky

But the increase in low-orbiting satellites has alarmed astronomers around the world who note that bright objects make it difficult for people to observe other objects in the sky, including distant stars and planets.

One of his main concerns, Malar Kondorkar, president of the Prince George’s Astronomical Society, says that satellites could interfere with astronomers’ ability to see other near-Earth objects such as asteroids, which could pose a danger if they collide with the planet.

A golden plane rises from the launch pad.
On September 10, SpaceX launched 34 Starlink satellites into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (SpaceX)

In 2013, for example, a meteorite hit over Russia More than 1000 people It also exploded over western Siberia.

Kundurkar said that although the probability of such events is “very low,” it is still essential to be able to identify such objects before they enter our planet’s atmosphere.

The Paris-based International Astronomical Union has expressed similar concerns. In 2019, the union said in the current situation That satellite towers built of highly reflective metals “could harm the sensitive capabilities of large ground-based astronomical telescopes”.

Earlier this year, IAU Announced the formation of the Dark and Tranquil Sky Protection Center from the interference of the constellation of satellites.

Their goal is to push for regulation of the number of satellites private companies can launch above Earth in an effort to preserve people’s ability to see the night sky.

There are also concerns about Collisions and accumulationcausing the satellites to fall to the ground.

In February, several Starlink satellites returned to the atmosphere After being hit by a solar storm.

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