Ever since SpaceX’s foundation in 2002, it has set various ambitious goals to achieve for the sake of the advancement of humanity. One of their goals is to connect the whole world via high-speed internet. To that end, they have launched about 100 satellites and have applied for a permit to launch a staggering 42,000 in total to make this goal a future reality. Known as the Starlink program, SpaceX has launched two batches of Starlink satellites, with its recent one in May 2019.
However, there has recently been a previously unforeseen complication of this program. In Chile, several astronomers were observing nearby galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. In one of those observations, they saw 19 of the Starlink satellites moving across their field of view and shining in the light. These satellites were blocking the image of the distant galaxies, and they were even visible through the security cameras mounted around the observatory. Although it is a known occurrence for satellites to be visible during observations, they are usually removed by imaging processing software. Still, there are difficulties if a star or planet is obscured. However, there was an unheard-of number of satellites, 19 in total passing overhead during the observation in Chile.
With the projected number of satellites only increasing, incidents such as this are going to be more common, potentially hampering future astronomical observations. On their part, SpaceX has promised to paint future satellites black to reduce their reflectivity and will try to manoeuvre them so as not to block anything. However, astronomers are still concerned about what the future holds for their views of the night sky.