A group of astronomers has called for a legal activity to stop the launch of tremendous quantities of satellites intended to beam high-speed internet around the world until their effect on the night sky can be evaluated.
US firm SpaceX has just propelled 240 satellites as part of its planned Starlink constellation of up to 42,000 satellites. Others, for example, the UK organization OneWeb, plan to launch many of their own. There are at present 1500 active satellites orbiting Earth.
Starlink satellites have made splendid streaks in some telescope pictures influencing astronomical perceptions. Some stress that a huge number of brilliant purposes of light could change the sky for the general population and space experts until the end of time.
“The ideal thing would be to stop the deployment of these kinds of satellites until the problem is very well studied. We have to understand what the impact is on the sky,” says Michele Maris at the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste in Italy, part of the group calling for legal action.
The group says that to halt mega-constellations, a case could be brought to the International Court of Justice to contend that the night sky is a shared human right under the World Heritage Convention. “The harm here is damage to our cultural heritage, the night sky, and monetary damages due to the loss of radio and other types of astronomy,” the astronomers write. Or then again an argument could be filed against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US for licensing Starlink, which the group says may have been in breach of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“It would be desirable to adopt contingent and limiting resolutions to be ratified as shared international rules,” the astronomers write. They additionally recommend that meanwhile, all mega-constellations ought to be required to be postponed momentarily. A related appeal to briefly stop further launches has over 1400 signatures.
Chris Johnson, a space law counsel at the Colorado-based pressure group the Secure World Foundation, says that the chances of legitimate activity being successful are slim, however, there is a contention that could be made.
“It’s time for the larger space community to think that means more: ground-based astronomy and traditional views of the night sky, or cheaper internet from space,” he says.
The FCC said in an announcement it “strongly reject[ed]” any claims it has violated NEPA and its endorsement of Starlink was “entirely lawful”.
SpaceX has endeavored to ease worries by testing a Starlink satellite covered in a darker material with the goal that it won’t reflect as a lot of light.
In any case, launches are continuous, with SpaceX set to send up 1500 Starlink satellites in 2020.
“If it is not possible to leave a better planet for future generations, we can at least try not to make it worse,” says group member Stefano Gallozzi at the Astronomical Observatory of Rome in Italy.
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