Cameras on the International Space Station capture SpaceX Starlink satellite “train” over an aurora

Apr 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Cameras on the International Space Station capture SpaceX Starlink satellite “train” over an aurora

Apr 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have captured a photograph of the aurora australis shot from somewhere over the Indian Ocean, along with a train of 16 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites – a handful of the almost-12,000 they expect to launch over the next few years.

The SpaceX Starlink network of satellites has been a somewhat controversial concept. Its goal is to create a global broadband internet system that allows everybody to have easy access to fast data. From a technological standpoint, it’s pretty amazing. But even if we ignore the tinfoil hat conspiracies, not everybody is pleased with the idea.

Image: NASA

Sixty new satellites will launch today, pushing the total number of satellites currently in the Starlink network to over four hundred. Still somewhat short of their final goal.

The main opponents of the programme are astronomers and astrophotographers, who believe it will ruin the night sky. Many astronomers even believe that the network could pose physical dangers as it makes it more difficult for them to detect potential near-earth asteroids on approach towards our planet.

And as for the astrophotographers, well, with the brightness of these satellites, their night sky images may never look the same again. Just a few hours ago, a photographer friend on Facebook gave up on photographing the Lyrid meteor shower last night (its peak), despite crystal clear skies, due to the fact that satellites were ruining the view.

The satellites themselves are rather bright, due to the huge mirror-like solar panels on each one, causing them to overpower dimmer objects in the night sky. And right now, there are only a few hundred. With Spacelink’s goal of 12,000 satellites, things are going to get much more obscured. For those stacking photographs of the night sky, I can see a mass of Starlink satellites in different positions in every photo screwing up auto-alignment features in some software.

Do Starlink’s aesthetic negatives outweigh the technological positives?

[via CNET / Image: NASA]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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7 responses to “Cameras on the International Space Station capture SpaceX Starlink satellite “train” over an aurora”

  1. udi tirosh Avatar
    udi tirosh

    So sad for the Aurora. And starx is just the first of many. Night photography or going to become a lot harder

  2. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    Artificial meteor showers are also in the works. We’ve successfully polluted every corner of the Earth, now I guess it’s time to trash up the universe.

  3. Ferry Passchier Avatar
    Ferry Passchier

    Yes

  4. John Smith Avatar
    John Smith

    Oh well, nothing is free. Global internet vs night photography is a clear choice for me.
    As for astronomy, launch costs are making space telescopes far more feasible. Current ground-based observatories cost between 700 million to 1 billion to build. Then cost $70 million to $100 million a year to operate.

    Falcon heavy costs $90 million to launch and can launch a fairly big payload. Space telescopes would provide superior results and ultimately be more cost effective if manufacturing was done correctly aka in house instead of through groups like NASA. Starlink satellites cost $250,000 each. So the current telescope costs reflect intentionally inefficiency, not engineering limits.

  5. Rusty Moore Avatar
    Rusty Moore

    It’s not just a matter of aesthetics, scientific work is affected too. And SpaceX is not the only company doing this. There are 57,000 satellites planned for launch in the next ten years.

  6. Guille Schim Avatar
    Guille Schim

    No. Pure space garbage. Stop it Elon.

  7. Bruce Hughes Avatar
    Bruce Hughes

    Shoot them down