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SpaceX’s Starlink and other satellite internet providers are making light pollution worse for astronomers

A person looks up into the sky at dusk with binoculars. There’s a rocket trail in the sky above the person.
People watch the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 21 second-generation Starlink satellites at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on February 27th, 2023. | Photo by Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images

The swift rise of internet satellites, forming megaconstellations, and accumulating space junk are already starting to mess with astronomers’ research. The problem is growing exponentially, scientists warn in a series of papers published recently in the journal Nature Astronomy. And they want regulators to do something about it.

The swarm of satellites functioning in low Earth orbit has more than doubled since 2019, when space-based internet initiatives really started to take off. That year, SpaceX and OneWeb launched their first batches of satellites with the goal of providing global internet coverage. Orbiting the planet at a closer range than other satellites is supposed to make those services faster, cutting down how far signals have…

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