Ants of the Sky
Today, SpaceX is set to launch its next batch of broadband-beaming Starlink satellites, bringing the total currently in orbit to 422.
But as a new video uploaded to Twitter demonstrates, the controversial satellites have been wreaking havoc on astronomical research, often appearing as bright streaks in the sky — and adding potential radio interference. In the video, a band of bright, fast-moving spots of light can be seen in the night-sky, no telescope required.
— Astrit Spanca (@astritspanca776) April 19, 2020
The Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is aware of the concerns and is now racing to find a fix. In January, SpaceX launched an experimental “DarkSat” satellite that featured an anti-reflective coating to make it appear less bright.
“Preliminary results show a notable reduction,” SpaceX manufacturing engineer Jessica Anderson said during a Starlink missiion, as quoted by Tesmanian.
Despite the coating, many Starlink satellites are showing up, clearly visible to the naked eye, as they travel across the night sky.
SpaceX is now iterating on other fixes. In a Wednesday tweet, Musk noted that “solar panel angle” during orbit adjustments of the satellites caused them to be more noticeable and brighter. “We’re fixing it now,” Musk added without elaborating.
According to TechCrunch, all Starlink satellites will feature “sunshades” starting with the ninth Starlink launch, today’s being the seventh.
Musk noted on Twitter today that the shades are “made of a special dark foam that’s extremely radio transparent, so as not to affect the phased array antennas,” noting that they look “a lot like a car sun visor.”
READ MORE: Elon Musk details some SpaceX efforts to reduce nighttime visibility of Starlink satellites [TechCrunch]
More on Starlink: ASTRONOMER: SPACEX SATELLITE SWARM WILL BE VISIBLE WITH NAKED EYE