• August 4, 2021

Exclusive: Astronomers Push for Global Debate on Giant Satellite Swarms

 Exclusive: Astronomers Push for Global Debate on Giant Satellite Swarms


Aerospace companies have launched about 2,000 Internet satellites into orbit around Earth over the past 2 years, nearly doubling the number of active satellites. This has sparked concerns among astronomers and other skygazers, who worry about interference with observations of the night sky. From a report: Now, in what would be the biggest international step yet towards addressing these concerns, diplomats at a United Nations forum next month might discuss whether humanity has a right to ‘dark and quiet skies.’ The debate could initiate a framework for how scientists and the public would deal with the flood of new satellites — with many more expected.

Tens of thousands of satellites could be added to Earth orbit in the next few years to provide broadband Internet, if companies and governments build and launch all the networks, or ‘megaconstellations,’ they have publicly announced. The sheer number of these could mean that hundreds are visible all night long, affecting the sky like never before in human history. “These constellations are changing dramatically the way space has been used,” says Piero Benvenuti, an astronomer at the University of Padua in Italy and a former general secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). He and other astronomers have been working through the IAU to raise international awareness of how the megaconstellations are affecting scientists and members of the public. They say the goal is not to pit astronomers against satellite companies, but to develop a vision of how to fairly use the shared realm of outer space.



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