4.35pm Friday 2nd February 2024

Dr Robert Massey is Deputy Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society. Before joining the RAS, his career took him from undergraduate years in Leicester to PhD research in Manchester to teaching in Brighton, and local politics in London alongside eight years as Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. In his spare time he enjoys running, cycling, hiking and cooking, and generally making the most of life in his new family home in Sussex. With a lifelong private and public passion for astronomy, he very much wants to avoid a world where satellites and light pollution ruin our shared heritage of an unsullied night sky. With the art historian Alexandra Loske, he co-authored Moon: Art, Science, Culture in 2019, and is the resident guest on the RAS Supermassive podcast, consistently one of the most popular in the world for astronomy.

A cluttered and noisy sky

65 years ago the Soviet Union placed the first satellite in space. There are now around 6,500 satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO), the region up to 2,000 km above the ground, and their deployment is accelerating. We could see up to 300,000 satellites in LEO by the end of this decade. This will have significant consequences. A key example is how it will affect the science of astronomy and our view of the sky. Some estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 10 ‘stars’ visible could be satellites, and professional and amateur astronomers alike now face significant challenges to our work. As a result our community has mobilised, working at a national, international and global level to tackle a complex problem, and to try to find a balance between the positive results of boosting communications and the impact on the space environment. Robert will set out the problem, what it means for scientists and the wider public, and what we can do about it.

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