SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites will soon sport an accessory to tamp down their surprising brightness.
That brightness worries many astronomers, who say that the huge Starlink constellation could seriously disrupt a variety of scientific observations. And Starlink will indeed be huge, if all goes according to SpaceX’s plan: The company has approval to launch 12,000 craft to low Earth orbit (LEO) and has applied for permission to loft 30,000 more. (For perspective, humanity has launched just 9,400 objects to orbit since the dawn of the space age in 1957).
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said that the company will find a way to make Starlink craft fade from scientists’ sight, predicting that the constellation will end up having no impact whatsoever on astronomical discoveries. SpaceX has been working with the astronomical community to help make this happen, researchers say, and the company has already tried out some mitigation measures.