back to article SpaceX tells astronomers: Fine, we'll try to stop Starlink spoiling stargazing sessions

SpaceX has entered into a coordination agreement with the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to attempt to mitigate some of the negative effects its Starlink satellite network is having on ground-based astronomy observations. The NSF said this week that Musk's space company is to cooperate on mitigating the impact of the …

  1. Ace2 Silver badge

    All this so 700K people can get broadband. Dumb idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Troll no do math?

      Yeah, every terminal is only going to be used by one person ever. Not like families, or whole cruise ships, of camps full of researchers.

      Don't get me wrong, you can frag Elon all you want for Twitter shit or the bumper trim falling off your model y, but if you want to rag on a critical alternate source for sat based internet, find a leg to stand on first.

      1. Ace2 Silver badge

        Re: Troll no do math?

        Troll? Rich coming from an AC.

        Starlink global capacity: ~1M users

        Americans without broadband access: 20-40 million

        Good luck with that, sparky.

        1. rcxb

          Re: Troll no do math?

          Starlink global capacity: ~1M users

          Yeah, that's just awful reporting. Follow a couple levels of links and you get back to the original that says:

          "Moffett’s study guesstimates that Starlink could ultimately serve as many as 6 million US subscribers"

          Note that's only US households...

          Americans without broadband access: 20-40 million

          That's a rather ridiculous measurement. Personally, I wish I could get SLOWER, cheaper access rather than absurdly high-speed, rather expensive service. I don't need to stream 8K ultra high rate video to 10 TVs. Way back, SBC DSL was $13/mo, Time Warner Cable's entry-level package was $15, all available to everyone. These days, you go look for internet service. These days, you can get internet service installed for less than $70 unless you're quite poor. Sure, it's faster, but that doesn't help my mother who just needs to get government forms and whatnot.

          I also reject the redefinition of broadband (multiple frequencies, opposite) into a speed measurement. Completely baseband technologies like ethernet count as broadband, while broadband services like DSL can't be called broadband, because somewhere along the way some lawyer in government decided that we can make any word mean anything. Do you think people really care whether an ISP can say "broadband" in their commercial? They're allowed to call their 1Mbps service "super fast" , just as long as they don't say it's "broadband".

      2. Camilla Smythe

        Re: Troll no do math?

        I think you will find that Elon had some money to employ some very clever people. Also Elon should just quote FCC 15 at the Woke SnowFlakes and frag on them to re-orientate their aerials..

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Troll no do math?

          Wow those Woke SnowFlakes get around don't they? Who knew they counted all the astronomers among their numbers.

  2. xyz Silver badge

    Get a Hubble...

    A biased bloke writes...

    Look it was ok in the dark ages (like 1999) for blokes in sheds to stare into space with their little telescopes, hoping to avoid the missus for the evening, whilst feeling a bit important.

    These days, what do you expect to find (?) given that "the good stuff" is in orbit viewing the early cosmos.

    Meanwhile I'm on youtube via starlink. :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get a Hubble...

      Gah, making us look bad man.

      Yes, space base telescopes can be pretty awesome. As it turns out there are more and bigger ones on the ground and with modern deconvolution software they exceed the existing space telescopes in some bands, and continue to do bleeding edge science.

      While the "Albedo Problem" with the Starlink one constellation has been the gift that keeps on giving free headlines, this isn't some new thing or even a point of major controversy. These agreements were already in place, and amount to the powers that be saying your approved as long as you do what you already agreed to. The only big concession is that they aren't approving the whole constellation at once.

      That's significant but shouldn't impact much unless they have to hold up future approvals, so there isn't any incentive for SpaceX to drag their feet on compliance. The MK 1 starlink constellation will burn in a few years down the road, and the worst of these issues will have passed.

    2. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Get a Hubble...

      >> These days, what do you expect to find (?) given that "the good stuff" is in orbit viewing the early cosmos.

      Why do people watch the sunrise/sunset every day? What do they hope to find?

      That's how stupid your question is.

    3. Vulch

      Re: Get a Hubble...

      The blokes in sheds still discover a fair chunk of asteroids and comets, particularly ones that are coming from odd directions. The stuff in orbit may be very Shiney (tm) and looking a long way out, and the professional observatories on the mountain tops do their bit, but there are lot of sheds with roll-back roofs dotted all over the globe.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Get a Hubble...

        As Douglas Adams pointed out in 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy',

        "Space is big, really big. You may think it is a long way down the road the the chemist's, but that is just peanuts compared to space."

        There is far too much sky for the professional astronomers' telescopes (optical and radio combined) to observe. Astronomy is one of the few areas of science where amateurs continue to do valuable work using direct observation, and photography. The late Sir Patrick Moore even discovered a crater on the Moon that is only visible from Earth when the lunar 'wobble'* is just right. And I'll bet that most if not all professional astronomers started out as amateurs as children.

        *The Moon presents mostly the same face to the Earth, however there is a slight wobble or libration which shows different parts of the lunar surface at different times:

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Get a Hubble...

          Today's APOD reports research done by amateur astronomers:

          "Why are there oxygen-emitting arcs near the direction of the Andromeda galaxy? No one is sure. The gas arcs, shown in blue, were discovered and first confirmed by amateur astronomers just last year. The two main origin hypotheses for the arcs are that they really are close to Andromeda (M31), or that they are just coincidentally placed gas filaments in our Milky Way galaxy. Adding to the mystery is that arcs were not seen in previous deep images of M31 taken primarily in light emitted by hydrogen, and that other, more distant galaxies have not been generally noted as showing similar oxygen-emitting structures. Dedicated amateurs using commercial telescopes made this discovery because, in part, professional telescopes usually investigate angularly small patches of the night sky, whereas these arcs span several times the angular size of the full moon. "

          Great work. Amateur astronomers have one of these one me ------->

    4. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Get a Hubble...

      > These days, what do you expect to find (?) given that "the good stuff" is in orbit viewing the early cosmos.

      Showing you're talking about things you haven't the slightest clue about. Storybook Dunning–Kruger, and also slightly insulting in a "let them eat cake" kind of way.

      Orbital telescopes might have all the fancy headlines, but there are thousands of earth-based telescopes of all sizes and specifications doing essential scientific grunt work, all over the globe. They do things orbital telescopes simply can not do. Technically can not, even ignoring the (rather obvious?) availability and price issues.

    5. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Get a Hubble...

      Amateurs can get stunning resolution... Although I do have to point out that starlink wouldn't significantly affect this kind of observation.

  3. G.Y.


    When they added electric wires to the vicinity, Frank Lloyd Wright protested all the way to FDR, griping the electric poles spoilt his view

  4. G.Y.

    other uses

    1. Kapsalon

      Re: other uses

      Upvoted because there was no need for a downvote.

      Why would Starlink for Ukraine not be OK?

  5. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

    Elon's done some sums

    (number of unhappy amateur astronomers) x (price of photoshop license) << (potential starlink profit)

    => PROFIT

    pay them off, Danno

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    This is a worldwide issue

    So solving it on a US only basis isn't sufficient. Nor will any of these agreements matter when a company based outside the US like in China decides to launch its own globe spanning satellite constellation.

    The UN ought to be taking this up, as SpaceX and anyone else launching such large low orbit satellite fleets are an issue for astronomers around the world not just those in the US.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: This is a worldwide issue

      No, the rest of the world is not important unless it has something the US wants.

    2. Kapsalon

      Re: This is a worldwide issue

      Well, me thinks that if the satellites are made less reflective and use the proper frequency bands in the US they will do the same in the rest of the world (most likely).

      Also Starlink has always been cooperative in solving this whole problem in the first place, the satellites are already much less visible than at the start.In that sense the headline is a little bit childish, there was already an agreement from 2019 and it has been updates as the Starlink Gen 2 satellites have more technology onboard, lasers for example.

      And for other countries, yes it would be better to have a world wide space/science organisation handling this. For now: if you have any questions or requirements contact SpaceX.

  7. man_iii

    UNSpacey gimme Gundams!

    I want my transformers VariableFighters and Gundams NOW!Please!

  8. nautica Silver badge

    Elon Musk is a every sense of the word.

    If his personal inclinations and characteristics had not made him such a loathsome individual, he might have had a good future in politics. Not now.

    "A fool and his money is soon elected."--Will Rogers.--but just not in this case.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Since quite a chunk of USA-inhabitants are always seeking out for a saviour he has good chances of being a president in 10 or 15 years. Way too many leftpondians always want the one man (mostly man, rarely woman) to save us(a). Waiting for the Neo, their marvel superhero, their holy president, whatever.

      1. Vulch

        Needs a constitutional amendment before he could stand.

      2. Aleph0

        Not being a "natural born" US citizen Elon Musk has between zero and negative chances of ever becoming president, unless there's a change in their constitution.

        Were it not for that provision there likely would have been a President Kissinger in the 80s, or a President Schwarzenegger (icon) in the Noughties.

        Edit: ah, ninja'd...

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Yeah, not really open for immigrants. Quite stupid, that keeps capable people away. Shows how backward parts of USA are.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            There's a good chapter on this in Wexler's The Odd Clauses.

            I agree that while the NBC clause has been accidentally useful a few times in the past, it's a nonsensical bit of jingoism that ought to go. Even if there were any actual argument in its favor, it's not like the POTUS job is the only sensitive position in government.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              > NBC clause

              What is the name of a news station a clause?

              I have to say this: I am getting annoyed by American pushing their "We are the world, everyone has to be like us and know such things" onto international sites. Dammit, USA are 331.5 million people, which are less than 2.5 % of the world population. This self-centering-we-are-the-only creeping into The Register starts to tick me off, for example throwing abbreviations around which ONLY US-A people can know since they live inside their US bubble all their life.

              Edit: Don't forget to downvote me for voicing my opinion openly and directly, as we Germany always do. We don't waste our time by saying "of looks nice, OK, great, wonderful but...", no we are direct. This is our way to be polite, since Germans hate nothing more than wasting time by beating around the bush.

              1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                PS: Bad math day, less than 4.5% of world population. Local time is 23:52 hour.

        2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

          I as a left pondian can tell you that ain't happening. There won't ever be an amendment to allow a non-native American become President.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Saw that in your crystal ball, did you?

      3. SundogUK Silver badge

        He was born in South Africa, so no, he will not be President of the USA, ever.

  9. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

    LEO is a very valuable space

    I know it's fashionable to rag on Musk at every opportunity these days, so let's ignore Starlink for the moment, and consider the wider picture.

    LEO is very valuable real-estate. It will relatively soon be extremely crowded indeed, for all sorts of reasons, now that orbital launches have come down in price to merely eye-watering rather than kings-ransom levels.

    So, I'm sorry, but surface-based astronomy is not going to be viable for much longer. Not my fault, no point yelling at me, I'm just the messenger.

    The good news is that orbital launches are now getting much cheaper, not least due to the same company that runs Starlink. So space-based astronomy is the way to go.


    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: LEO is a very valuable space

      Surface based astronomy will remain the overwhelming bulk of astronomy for the foreseeable future.

      You only partly redeemed yourself by apologising for your lie.

      1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

        Re: LEO is a very valuable space

        What lie? I said it won't be viable for much longer, not that it wasn't currently useful. Did you bother to read what I wrote before reaching for the blunderbuss?


        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: LEO is a very valuable space

          But that is a lie.

          1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

            Re: LEO is a very valuable space

            You think so? LEO is going to get increasingly crowded in the coming years.

            Still, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. If land-based astronomy has a long and happy future ahead, I will be extremely pleased.


  10. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Only during dusk and dawn

    You don't see them at night. You see them before the sun starts to rise and after sunset. At night they are in earth shadow and practically invisible. So the actual annoyance is that they are stealing survey time. How much is depending on your latitude (see Chile). The radio emission stuff is a different thing though.

    Actually I thought they would have applied the paint and various other modification over a year ago! Reading "they apply them NOW for the new generation" it a bit "why not sooner???". But since they don't live that long the problem will be solved automatically, to some extend.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Only during dusk and dawn

      "Why not sooner" - because the FCC et al didn't require them to.

      The industry is still regulated as if nobody could afford to launch more than ten big satellites. Now that tens of thousands of tiny ones can go up, the regulations don't work.

      1. Kapsalon

        Re: Only during dusk and dawn

        A lot has already been done for the Gen1 satellites, Gen2s haven't been launched yet, they are being painted now.

        For more info:

        Search for "brightness"

  11. Marty McFly Silver badge

    For what purpose??

    What fascinating scientific discoveries are waiting to be made with terrestrial astronomy? Both Hubble & James Webb seem to produce discoveries & images far better than any land based telescope could ever achieve. It seems that is where the cutting edge is located, and it is not at risk from LEO satellites.

    For Friday chuckles, I need to find a picture of an astronomer out in the back lands, filing a complaint on-line, using a Starlink dish. LOL!

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: For what purpose??

      You need to up your astronomy knowledge. Those earth telescopes are well booked.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: For what purpose??

        > You need to up your astronomy knowledge. Those earth telescopes are well booked.

        ^ This. Terrestrial telescopes are essential, because they do things orbital telescopes can't do, not to mention they are much easily available (hundreds of thousands of those, as opposed to only 2 on orbit), way cheaper to operate (which determines how much/often you will be able to use it), easy to reconfigure for a specific task (changing the camera can be done in a couple hours for next to no cost) and all that.

        Besides there aren't just half a dozen astronomers able to play full time with Hubble/Webb, there are hundreds of thousands of them trying to book time on any available telescope to further their research, which often requires long observation times or special equipment (wide field, special filters/cameras, and so on).

        Orbital telescopes get all the headlines, but most of the science is done down here on earth with perfectly adequate if not better ground-based equipment.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: For what purpose??

      It’s not all about distant galaxies and new exoplanet discoveries.

  12. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Sorry, people of earth. We couldn't spot the asteroid that hit you: because you filled the sky with so many fucking satellites...

  13. Tom 7 Silver badge


    There's fucking starlink satellites wandering around on Stellarium now. The fuckers can even piss me off on a cloudy night!

    I hope this is Musks Twitter moment!

  14. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    Figured Musk would

    fix the problem with a few gallons of Vanta Black. That would solve the visual problem. Didn't think a about radio telescopes having a problem.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Figured Musk would

      Send them into the local industrial estate to get a velvet black wrap, and deep tints. Den no one gunna mess wid dem innit.

    2. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Figured Musk would

      "fix the problem with a few gallons of Vanta Better Black"

      You are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.

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