Astronomers warned that SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation could block the view of a new telescope known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). If this happens, the telescope will not be able to carry out some of its important functions, such as hunting nearby asteroids that pose a threat to Earth.

The LSST is currently being built on the Cerro Pachon ridge in Chile. With a construction cost of $466 million, it is being regarded as one of Earth’s most important telescopes. Once it has been built, the LSST is expected to launch a survey campaign that will map out the entire sky in just three nights, Forbes reported.

According to the astronomers who will oversee the LSST’s operations, the telescope will be able to detect any significant changes in the sky. They are also hoping to detect over a hundred thousand new supernova remnants through the telescope.

More importantly, the LSST will be used to hunt down near-Earth asteroids. Doing so can help space agencies identify the trajectories of these asteroids to determine which of them are in danger of colliding with Earth.

Unfortunately, astronomers are worried that SpaceX’s Starlink project could hinder the LSST from successfully performing its functions. Currently, there are about 122 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth. This number would eventually jump to 42,000 once SpaceX has completed the project.

For Dr. Tony Tyson, the chief scientist for LSST, the brightness of each Starlink satellite could significantly limit the telescope’s view, which means it might not be able to spot certain cosmic objects.

“LSST uniquely scans the sky with a fast and wide cadence going to very faint limits,” he said according to Forbes. “This means that of all observatories it is most impacted by tens of thousands of bright low earth orbit satellites."

“There will be so many it is not feasible to dodge them,” Tyson added. “The only hope is for the operators like SpaceX to make them dimmer.”

Aside from not being able to spot new cosmic discoveries, the LSST might not be able to detect incoming asteroids if they get blocked by the bright streaks produced by Starlink satellites.

A SpaceX Starlink satellite A SpaceX Starlink satellite in orbit (illustration) Photo: SpaceX