A video of Elon Musk’s web of Starlink satellites has left onlookers stunned as scientists warn of their little-known risks to the night sky.
There are, at most, around 9,000 stars visible to Earth’s view of the sky, and around 5,000 Starlink satellites, as of August.
The orange dots represent Starlink satellites.
According to new research, low-frequency radio waves are ‘leaking’ into the sky and hurting scientist’s ability to make astronomical observations.
Sky gazers fear that soon satellites will outnumber the amount of stars there are to see, according to comments made on Musk’s social media platform X (formerly Twitter).
One onlooker called the video“depressing”, before adding: “Literally in only a few years they will outnumber the stars themselves.
All the Starlink satellites now around Earth pic.twitter.com/cdDypr6uSo
— Latest in space (@latestinspace) September 27, 2023
“Gotta love lack of oversight that allows megalomaniacs to ruin the planet for everyone.”
“That’s just a start because repeat this over again with China and India and other billionaire space Cowboys.”
However, Dr Kit Chapman, science historian and lecturer at Falmouth University, was quick to point out that these orange dots are not to scale.
“There’s lots of things you can say about the science of space. Space junk, choice of materials, the chemistry of satellites, etc,” he tweeted.
“But ‘omg this little animation shows space is so overcrowded’… like, do they seriously think each satellite is the size of Greater London?
“A Starlink satellite, for those wondering, is about the size of a dining room table (or, wrestling fans, the size and weight of Andre the Giant).
“Space is not overcrowded. We humans are just really crap at understanding scale and numbers.”
Another onlooker wrote the video wasn’t particularly “impressive or scary” but that it made clear Starlink would be significantly contributing to space debris.
“It seems like Starlink satellites are designed to deorbit, but they risk collisions and creating more debris,” they tweeted.
“Cleaning Low Earth Orbit is still in an experimental stage…”
A looming issue
Space junk, or space debris, is anything left by humans that is stuck in Earth’s orbit – be it a piece a dead satellite or fleck of paint chipped off a rocket.
Objects in Earth’s orbit travel at about 15,000 miles per hour – fast enough that if a small piece collided with a satellite or space ship it could do serious damage.
The International Space Station often engages in maneuvering missions to avoid pieces of space junk.
What comes alongside heightened activity is more debris.
Scientists are not only concerned that the growing number of satellites in orbit will change the landscape of the night sky.
But they are also afraid of an extreme collision event, like what Nasa scientist Donald Kessler proposed in 1978.