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Iowa Outdoors By Brett Reece State Conservation Officer

May 14, 2020
Northern-Sun Print
This year, at the end of April, my family and I were in our backyard enjoying the stars when we observed something shocking coming out of the northwestern night sky. It was a string of very bright lights that took our breath away. Upon realizing that they were satellites, I went to the internet and discovered that they were a string of approximately 20 Starlink satellites placed into orbit by Elon Musk and his company SpaceX. The SpaceX Starlink satellites appear in groups of up to 60 in a long line and each is bright. They were first launched into space in May 2019 and there are currently about 360 in orbit. SpaceX has the ultimate goal of blanketing the space around Earth with potentially up to 42,000 of these satellites. These satellites will provide internet to every corner of the Earth. Some might think the sight of these satellites is pretty cool, but I do not. My family and I were horrified by the sight and the thought of what is to come. Once these tens of thousands of Starlink satellites are in orbit they are there to stay and this is from just one company. I understand that there are currently no national or international laws to address the problems associated with placing satellites into space…there needs to be. These satellites may seem like a good idea to some, but there is a tradeoff. My primary concern is that the unregulated placing of satellites into space to orbit our planet will ruin the natural beauty of the night sky. These satellites will make astronomical observations more difficult. Also, there will no doubt be collisions between satellites leading to more space debris “junk” in Earth orbit. None of these outcomes are acceptable. The problem with satellites like the SpaceX Starlink is that each satellite reflects sunlight making them visible from the ground, which in turn affects our view of the night sky. There needs to be some type of regulation governing the placement of satellites into space and their visibility from the Earth’s surface. I can envision a day when in one view there could be hundreds if not thousands of satellites visible in the night sky. I can also envision a day when space advertising is a reality. Is this future acceptable? I believe not. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and I have a passion for naked-eye astronomy. When I view the night sky I see the same stars that my ancestors viewed. This has meaning to me and I hope it has meaning to others as well. Whether it be in Iowa or in the wilderness of southern Utah, I would like to think that everyone should have the opportunity now and in the future to view the night sky as nature intended it to be viewed--free from the ever present hand of man. SpaceX and other companies might have good intentions, but they are companies out to make money. I believe it is an outrage that one person, or one company, can take control and completely transform every organisms’ experience of the night sky including our own. Every culture that has ever existed has valued the night sky through naked-eye astronomy. Mankind’s observations of the stars have created meaningful traditions which survive to this day. The one thing that humans have always had in common is the night sky and messing with it is something not to be taken lightly. I do not want to imagine a time when my children and my children’s children cannot enjoy the night sky as I and my ancestors have for millennia.



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