KEY POINTS

  • SpaceX recently launched its latest batch of Starlink satellites
  • The 57 new satellites have been equipped with special visors
  • Astronomers are still concerned about the satellites' effect on astronomical observations

SpaceX has launched the latest batch of its Starlink satellites. Unlike the previous units, the new satellites were equipped with special visors to reduce their reflectivity.

During the recent launch, which took place on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX deployed a total of 57 satellites into low-Earth orbit. The satellites took off from Earth through the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, Space.com reported.

The launch of the latest batch of satellites is part of SpaceX’s massive project that aims to provide high-speed Internet service from space. It involves deploying a satellite constellation consisting of thousands of units.

Currently, SpaceX has around 600 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit. The company plans to launch a total of 42,000 satellites for its Starlink project.

Due to the number of satellites orbiting Earth, astronomers have started to express their concern on Starlink’s effect on astronomy. As seen in previous photos captured by astronomers, the sudden appearance of bright Starlink satellites can disrupt images of cosmic objects. The astronomers cited the reflectivity of the satellites’ surface as the main reason for their brightness.

For astronomers, the satellites’ brightness and reflectivity should be considered as a major issue for the scientific community. They warned that the appearance of the satellites could prevent astronomers and scientists from detecting and identifying new cosmic objects. The satellites could also prevent them from spotting near-Earth objects and asteroids that are in danger of hitting the planet.

As a possible solution to this issue, SpaceX equipped its latest batch of satellites with a new feature. The satellites, known as VisorSat, are equipped with special visors that were designed to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the satellites’ surface. SpaceX noted that the visors, called sunshade, were designed to be deployed once the satellites reach their target altitude.

Despite the new design, some astronomers still believe that the satellites would disrupt astronomical observations.

“If you figure out where to put the visors, you should be able to really cut down those reflections. And that will make the satellites no longer naked-eye objects, which is good,” astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told Business Insider in June. “It won't, probably, make them so faint that they won't be a problem for professional astronomers.”