At least two trains of Starlink satellites ruined the photo of the fragmenting comet ATLAS taken by an amateur astronomer. It is the latest photo to show the harmful effects of SpaceX's satellites on astronomical observations.
ATLAS is a recently discovered comet that's currently on its way to approach the Sun. Observations on the comet revealed that it has started to break apart.
Spotting Comet ATLAS And Starlink Satellites
Zdenek Bardon, an amateur astronomer from the Czech Republic, was watching the comet on Sunday, April 19. He was trying to take clear photos of the comet using his Nikon D810A camera. Although he was able to capture a photo of ATLAS, it was ruined by the appearance of SpaceX's Starlink satellites.
As noted by Bardon, the light streaks caused by at least two trains of Starlink satellites appeared in his photo. These streaks appeared in a grid-like pattern around the comet. "I was trying to photograph disintegrating Comet ATLAS," he said, according to SpaceWeather.com. "My local night sky suffers from light pollution, and stacking of multiple exposures is necessary in order to image the comet. Unfortunately, I had not considered the trajectories of the Starlink satellites, and many of my exposures were contaminated."
Effect Of Starlink On Astronomy
Bardon's experience is the latest incident that involved Starlink satellites accidentally appearing in photos of cosmic objects. Many of these incidents were documented by SpaceWeather.com through an image gallery that specifically shows photos of Starlink satellites photobombing astronomical observations.
Currently, there are over 360 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth. For the project, SpaceX plans to launch over 40,000 satellites to provide high-speed internet connection from space. Due to the number of satellites that the company aims to launch, astronomers warned that the presence of the Starlink units would disrupt the operations of observatories.
In line with this matter, the International Astronomical Union released a statement to explain how the Starlink project would affect the field of astronomy. "Apart from their naked-eye visibility, it is estimated that the trails of the constellation satellites will be bright enough to saturate modern detectors on large telescopes," the organization stated. "Wide-field scientific astronomical observations will therefore be severely affected."