SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company is “fixing” the brightness of its company satellites.
Astronomers around the world, including many Britons, have witnessed unusual constellations of the spacecraft in low Earth orbit.
SpaceX has launched large batches of satellites as part of its Starlink project to improve global Internet coverage.
The most recent launch took place on Wednesday.
Responding to a question about the brightness of Starlink satellites on Twitter, Musk said it was due to the angle of the satellite solar panels and that the company was “fixing it now.”
A solution could make them less visible from Earth.
SpaceX’s Starlink project aims to ultimately create a network of 12,000 satellites that will relay broadband Internet access to Earth.
Many satellites that are now visible were sent in March, but their current orbital position has made them easier to see in the past few days.
These satellites are also particularly bright due to their size and proximity to the Earth. Large satellites are usually sent into higher orbit. Satellites in low orbit are generally smaller.
Starlink satellites also have large flat screens that reflect light.
SpaceX is working on a “parasol” which will reduce the reflection of the satellites sent during future launches.
According to astronomers, the visibility of satellites is now less problematic for them than it will be as the constellation grows and becomes operational.
The spacecraft is currently in a stationary orbit, but in the coming months, the spacecraft will use onboard engines to move further from Earth and rotate its solar panels toward the Sun. This will make them less visible to the naked eye but could mean that they are causing light pollution for astronomers trying to take pictures of the outer reaches of space.
“Astronomers’ cameras are designed to take pictures of very weak things and bright light could ruin the data,” said Dr. Jonathan McDowell, astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics, a research center at Harvard University.
“I applaud the fact that [SpaceX] really tried to find ways to make them less shiny, “he said.
But Dr. McDowell added that there is another problem with the launch of so many new satellites in low orbit – the increase in traffic.
The increasing number of low-orbiting devices increases the risk of accidents between objects that could damage machines or return materials to Earth.
SpaceX launches continued despite the locking of Covid-19 in the United States, where SpaceX is based.
Wednesday’s launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was the fourth for Starlink this year and the seventh time it has sent a large batch of spacecraft into orbit.