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Starlink satellites deploying in orbit. Credit: SpaceX

Many skywatchers were delighted to spot a bright line of SpaceX's internet-beaming Starlink satellites pass overhead this weekend, but to astronomers, it was an ominous sign of things to come.

Why it matters: Bright satellites in the night sky can affect astronomy by getting in the way of sensitive, long exposure photos. Usually, researchers can work around these satellites by tracking their orbits and accounting for their predictable movements, but with more satellites come more complications.

  • “You take this picture that was meant to be all pretty galaxies and stuff and it ends up being lots of lines across the image where the satellites went by,” astronomer Jonathan McDowell tells Axios.

Driving the news: The 60 Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX on May 23 were unexpectedly bright when they first deployed, McDowell says, rivaling even the brightest stars in the sky and stoking fears about what these satellites might mean for astronomy.

  • However, as time passed and the satellites oriented themselves after launch, they stopped looking as bright.
  • Still, they will likely shine brightly enough to be visible with the naked eye from dark areas around the world with limited light pollution, McDowell says.

The big picture: While these specific satellites may not be that big of a deal in the long run, the large constellations they portend could be an unexpected contributor to light pollution in the night sky for everyone.

  • SpaceX is planning to launch thousands of these satellites over the coming years.
  • Amazon’s Project Kuiper is also expected to launch thousands of their broadband satellites, alongside constellations from OneWeb and others.
  • For his part, SpaceX founder Elon Musk is aware of the issue, tweeting that he's sent a note to the Starlink team asking about ways to reduce the brightness of the crafts.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Apple sets September quarter sales record despite later iPhone launch

Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at the Apple 12 launch event in October. Photo: Apple

Apple on Thursday reported quarterly sales and earnings that narrowly exceeded analysts estimates as the iPhone maker continued to see strong demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they's saying: The company said response to new products, including the iPhone 12 has been "tremendously positive" but did not give a specific forecast for the current quarter.