Starlink future in danger? Scientists calling for ban on low Earth orbit satellites it uses

Leonard Sengere Avatar
Starlink 1300 satellites, coverage

I know most of us are looking at Starlink as some kind of saviour. We have been disappointed enough by the current internet service providers in this country that we cling to any hope of a new player entering the fray.

When Starlink said they were coming to Zimbabwe this calendar year, the excitement reached fever pitch. We still don’t know what the regulator has to say about all this but that hasn’t stopped us from saving up for Starlink kits.

This hope of ours might be in jeopardy though if astronomers would have their way. These scientists are calling on us to join them in calling for the ban of satellite groups like the one that Sarlink has. They say these satellites are causing light pollution.

Light pollution? Seriously? My Zimbabwe, are you cursed or something? Just the whiff of something good coming your way and the forces combine to snatch it away from you, and from the whole world too. Maybe the likes of Liquid and Econet have been pulling in all-nighters on some mountaintop and this is their answer.

Light pollution

Scientists say “light pollution, produced both at Earth’s surface and from low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, is rapidly increasing.” This might not feel like a big deal but the science is clear, artificial light at nighttime is bad for humans, animals and the environment.

Low Earth orbit satellites like Starlink’s don’t produce enough light to directly cause things like sleep deprivation in humans. However, scientists say we just aren’t sure of the extent of the effect they are having on wildlife and the environment.


It’s not the main talking point for scientists though. What can’t be argued is how low Earth orbit satellites are negatively impacting scientists’ ability to study the skies. That is the crux of the matter.

I have to be honest with you, I don’t want to connect to these warnings. I know that astronomy has contributed much to our knowledge of the universe and in turn, led to some technological advancements in optics and electronics.

The computers and smartphones we want to connect to Starlink internet have astronomy to thank for their existence.

However, given the choice to connect to unlimited Starlink internet at $110 for real-world speeds of over 50Mbps, I would sacrifice some of the advancements that could be harder to achieve with light pollution going unchecked.

The reason I’m not moved is that light pollution does not mean we can’t study the skies at all. It just makes it much more difficult and expensive. Well, where there is a way, we will find the funds.

I am not moved by the other danger that light pollution poses – that of making it hard to detect ‘near-Earth objects that represent a high risk of colliding with our planet.’ It is a real risk but I’m willing to wing it, it’s not like there is much we can do about that in my misguided opinion.

The call to ban

I joke around but these are real concerns that the scientists have raised. So serious it is that the scientists say there should be a limit on the number of low Earth orbit satellites allowed and that we have already exceeded that limit. So, the scientists propose a ban,

On the scales of immediate or long-term benefits and harm to society, and despite the popularity of satellite megaconstellations, we must not reject the possibility of banning them. On the contrary, we believe that the impacts and risks are too high for this possibility to be ruled out

You can read one of the articles published in Nature by these astronomers here: A call for scientists to halt the spoiling of the night sky with artificial light and satellites

The scientists concede that it’s going to be hard for them to win this fight. Most of us laypeople just don’t think light pollution is a big problem.

That’s especially the case because whatever danger it poses is not immediate. Yet, the benefits that come attached to that light pollution include fast and affordable internet.

Companies like Starlink are also good at making us doubt the ‘seriousness’ of such scientific warnings.

So, Starlink’s future might not be in danger after all. Unless the anti-Elon Musk sentiment which permeates some internet circles proves to be strong.

What do you think about all this? Would you support a ban on new low Earth orbit satellites hitting the skies? Would you go a step further and call for the decommissioning of current satellites? Even if it meant no Starlink for you in the future? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read:

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has confirmed Starlink is coming to Zimbabwe this year. South Africa’s date is still unknown

Starlink introduces Global Roaming which means you can technically use it in Zimbabwe now

We asked POTRAZ about Starlink. Here is everything we know about it coming to Zimbabwe.

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  1. Andrew P Ryeland

    I think ground based greedy ISPs are behind this. STARLINK is essential to our works future. If you want to cut back on light pollution start with the skycrapers in big cities.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You can say that again. This has ground based ISPs written all over it. As they say, figure out who stands to benefit the most from something and 9 times out of 10, that’s who is behind whatever you are looking at.

  2. Dario

    Astronomers can put their telescopes in space, the internet users can’t live underground or in darkness. Starling will help scientists because it funds the biggest launcher in history which will allow them to put space telescopes for a fraction of the cost of Hubble

    1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Starlink

      I guess it’s a plan, but launching is the easy part. The fact that it took so long and $10 billion to get the James Webb Telescope up there should tell you it’s not a very feasible for every astronomer. I think there’s still value in terrestrial based astronomy and that there is room for compromise in this issue.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        The voice of reason. There has to be some regulation, it can’t be ‘do whatever you want’. I’m just afraid of what that compromise will look like. These scientists would have a complete ban and that scares me. But maybe it’s a negotiating tactic, start of with suggesting a total ban so that anything less becomes a little more palatable.

      2. Anonymous

        The US government and NASA have proven to be careless when it comes to funds the SLS rocket cost them more than a billion and ten years in the making still being tested by the way but is already outdated and 10x the cost it took to design the ever reliable falcon 9 I’m sure if private companies what to do astronomy they will come up with more efficient ways

    2. Leonard Sengere

      Ya, it is an option, an expensive one though. In my selfishness and short-sightedness, I say let’s leave Starlink and competition be and let astronomers raise the funds to set up telescopes in space. You raise a good point that SpaceX has advanced to where it won’t cost as much to do that anyway. So, light pollution my foot, I guess.

  3. To Infinity

    I guess I can kinda see their point. Starlink is not done with its constellation. Amazons Kuiper won its FCC case so it will start launching its own LEO satellites soon. China will be looking at all this and thinking it would be awesome to own a global service through which they can control and harvest data and Russia, coming off of the sharp end of all this will be considering something similar from a strategic point of view. Never mind not seeing the stars, we might end up an earth locked civilisation 😅

    That said, I don’t think we’ll end up at the point of needing a full ban. The UN and all the other cliques should do something useful and negotiate a way to manage the issues and the LEO gang can further work on their tech, like when Starlink launched their revised satellites with less reflective coatings.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      The astronomers are not wrong. This is only just the beginning, it’s probably gonna get crowded pretty soon if nothing is done. It’s just that it’s hard to care. Research that could transform how we live radically in the future VS fast internet today. It’s not even close.

      What scares me is that the UN is probably going to need to get involved and I’m not a fan of that organisation. You’re right that it probably won’t get to a full ban, I think it’s a negotiating tactic on the part of the astronomers.

    2. Mina

      Many corporations and countries like Russia and China will never approve of Musk ‘s idea. Remember those countries are dictatorships which would like to control their people’s minds via propaganda and the internet. Russia will always want to find ways to destroy Starlink for supporting the Ukrainians in their war with Russia.

  4. XCLR8OR

    Oh please , light pollution my ass..the Earth is dying anyway, just a couple more years of emissions and we are beyond the point of no return. Plus secretly I would love for the World to get hit By a large extinction level asteroid or comet .

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Yo, XCLR8OR, chill out. Talk to me, what’s going on? You can’t be secretly wishing mother Earth gets hit by an extinction level asteroid.
      I think you have listened to the prophets of doom too much. The earth is not on its last legs as they would have you believe. There is a future for this planet of ours, in spite of the climate change and the like.

  5. Hi

    Isn’t global warming a bigger threat before the light pollution affects us just his year we still got another 4 cyclones anticipated.we definitely need more competition here not just in isp but also can a 40yr old country have one TV station

    1. One scientists data is another scientists noise

      Light pollution has more of an impact on earth based studies of space than the actual environment. I would go so far as to say it has zero direct impact to the our immediate environment apart incidental fallout from failed launches and satellite debris surviving reentry. With optical systems and sometimes even the naked eye, reflections coming off of the satellites interfere with observing the stars and beyond. Other sensors are probably picking up the satellites as noise which then has to be filtered out and tracked, so this is a bit of a mess if you are in the right scientific and hobbyist fields.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        That is going to make it hard for them to convince us to care about light pollution. Seeing the stars VS fast internet? Most of us will choose Musk.

    2. Leonard Sengere

      Light pollution does not pose the same kind of danger that climate change does. Light pollution mostly means it will be harder to research and that’s hardly a world shattering prospect, even though it should be.
      So, I’m with you, let them stuff the low Earth orbit with satellites. We need to be saved from these ISPs.

  6. D.K.

    In the beginning was the electric car, then came the petrol and diesel engines. Those supplying petrol and diesel had so much money which they put into stifling the electric car development. The electric car came back with a bang, resurrected by none other than the man who has made space his playground. Whoever is worried about this light pollution should just put it across to the entrepreneur, and he can find a solution to their problem/s. They can use his Twitter to communicate with him. Given a second lifetime, this entrepreneur can build another earth with specific design parameters for the comfort of the human being and other life forms.

    1. D.K.

      p.s. What should one who has a light pollution problem do with a base station tower that casts a shadow on their solar panels?

    2. Leonard Sengere

      I don’t completely disagree. So, maybe you would agree with the scientists that we have to put some pressure on Musk and competition to try to limit the negative impact of their satellites. The scientists argue that if we don’t do that, the for-profit enterprises in this industry won’t regulate themselves.

    3. Nobert Kazingizi

      Interesting how he did it, by using the same standard AA batteries except this time as linthium ion.
      And oh he took advantage of coppers ability to repel itself from a magnetic field even in the absence of electricity (e.motors).

  7. Nitpik

    Sounds like terrestrial providers have woken up and have hired the cigarette companies PR guys. “light pollution” is not a thing. Also, aren’t floods and famines going to kill us before the silver surfer comes to town.


      It is unbeknownst to many…but the truth is the Silver Surfer is already here …and they are of many species …they live amongst us possibly,disguised as humans

    2. This little starlink of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

      Unfortunately, light pollution is a thing and has been a thing since space observatories ran away from whole a** cities and countries so they could get a clear look into space. Don’t think of it in the same physical way as you would gold processing run off getting into the water supply or the carcinogenic smoke from the unofficial neighborhood rubbish pit.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        It is a thing but be honest with me, would you say no to $110 unlimited internet at over 50Mbps just so we can install some telescope in Shurugwi?

    3. Leonard Sengere

      I would not be surprised one bit if we found out that terrestrial providers are behind this. But light pollution is a thing even if it’s hard to care about.
      You’re right that there are more pressing dangers though. The silver surfer won’t be the one to end us.

  8. Curiosity killed the cat

    What is that big satellite dish 📡 re white at the Hatfield golf club for. Riri pa booster so pa corner

    1. Glaurung The Dragon

      Since the study of astronomy is one of my pastimes, i’m torn between two sides. Fast and reliable internet is almost a basic human right now, no doubt. But the universe holds so much mysteries and we still don’t know much about it and the study of it should be cheaper and easily accessible hence ground based telescopes. I’m slightly leaning towards the scientists’ side, just because I’m a sucker for astronomy and discovering more about our galaxy and the origins of the universe is just so important for my curious mind and also relying mostly on space based telescopes because of low orbit satellites obstruction, makes the study very expensive for amateur astronomers.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        If we’re being honest, yours is the sensible position. However, I’m like, let the fortunate take on this vital research from Hubble etc. Tough luck dear amateur astronomers, we need fast, affordable, reliable internet to turn our little 3rd world economies around. Hopefully, costs to set up telescopes in space continue dropping and we don’t totally lose out on that kind of research.

        1. Glaurung The Dragon

          It’s a very fair opinion you have. For development, this country needs fast and reliable internet, I totally get that but the little guys contribution to astronomy cannot be underestimated. Many exoplanets and other breakthroughs have been discovered by amateur astronomers and hell, a potentially threatening asteroid can be discovered not by the likes of NASA, but by the amateurs. My point is they are just as important as the established astronomers with resources. Anyway, lets hope there is a middle ground that can satisfy both parties, but i’m not holding my breath on that

    2. Leonard Sengere

      Not familiar with that Hatfield satellite dish. Can someone enlighten us please?

  9. King

    What happens when low orbit satellites die? do they drift in to space or they fall back to earth coz eventually satellites do die and we can’t have thousands of satellites falling back to earth in the future.

    1. MCRN Corpsman

      Once they can’t control their altitude they will fall back to earth. They are small enough to burn up completely on reentry

      1. Anonymous

        That’s still pollution and I’m sure that some small particles will reach the earth’s atmosphere…there are a lot of incidents where a huge chunk of these low orbit satellites fall back to earth like what happened in Canada.

    2. Leonard Sengere

      The smaller satellites burn up on reentry and nothing, absolutely nothing reaches the Earth’s surface. The larger ones will leave some debris and so they are guided to land far from any human settlement at the Spacecraft Cemetery in the Pacific Ocean.

  10. Anon

    My question to the Astrologers is what happens when there is a more likely catastrophe like a cyclone, earth quake, or tornado, tsunami, bush fire. It will most likely reap out all the fibre and 4G base stations, and will remain with no comms at all. Given climate change and that these natural catastrophes are going to happen more and more, will need comms and that can be done very well with LEO satellites. I think astrologers should work closely with SpaceX to have more telescopes like the Webb telescope in orbit.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You my friend are trying to pick a fight with them I see. Calling them astrologers is the worst thing you can do. You better not meet any astronomers in the wild, they will deck you.

      Your points are valid though. I would be interested to hear what the astrologers have to say.

      1. Anonymous

        Astrologers Vs Astronomers! Battle for the ages

  11. Nitpik

    Scientists and their bubbles. I feel like “light pollution” is such a niche issue. Tone deaf to be honest. Fast reliable internet in 2023 is like the steam engine during the industrial revolution. It’s the infrastructure. People need it to survive, literally. Discovering the nth constellation is a just some space garbage is a bummer I get it. But we need to be real. I’m with musk on this one.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I’m with you. I understand what they are saying but I couldn’t care less about light pollution. It just might be tone deaf like you say.

    2. Nobert Kazingizi

      We need to go from a “railroad to a rocket”
      We need to supplunt the punched hole with a microchip on the punched card.

  12. Nobert Kazingizi

    Looks like the China’s artificial moon project” to reflect light to earth, could run into trouble.
    Effectively this means animals and insects get light 24 hrs a day even I’m the forest/bush.
    The light from Starlink’s LEOs probably don’t make a dent, but combined the constallations emiting the electromagnetic spectrum of white light can start to be considerable.