Are SpaceX's Starlink Satellites Photobombing Astronomical Observations? Here's What A Study Said In March

As the number of satellites orbiting the Earth continues to rise, astronomers are grappling with various concerns, including photobombing satellites.

What Happened: Earlier this year, in March, a study raised concerns regarding the number of satellites in the Earth’s orbit — including the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX's Starlink — which, in turn, was causing complications for ground-based telescopes during astronomical observations. The concern even extended to Hubble Space Telescope.

See Also: SpaceX Launches Next Falcon Heavy Mission: Why Elon Musk Finds This 27-Engine Rocket 'Scary'

SpaceX and other companies have launched thousands of satellites, and it is expected that many more will be sent into orbit in the future. This has the potential to impact not just Hubble, but also other telescopes operating in space.

"With the growing number of artificial satellites currently planned, the fraction of Hubble Space Telescope images crossed by satellites will increase in the next decade and will need further close study and monitoring,” the research paper published in Nature Astronomy stated.

Observations affected by artificial satellites can become unusable for scientific research, wasting a growing fraction of the research budget on costly infrastructures and mitigation efforts, said the study titled, “The Impact Of Satellite Trails On Hubble Space Telescope Observations.”

The research studied the contamination in observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope with the help of images captured by the telescope between 2002 and 2021.

Why It's Important: With rising ambitions around space, the number of satellites is steeply rising. In December last year, SpaceX announced that Starlink has crossed the one million active subscribers benchmark. Inc. AMZN, which aims to build a satellite constellation similar to Starlink, plans to launch its first internet satellites in the first half of 2024, stated Reuters.

This story was originally published on March 7, 2023.

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