Starlink Photobomb

After what seemed like an eternity, I was lucky enough to have two full clear nights over the weekend for the new moon. An opportunity I was looking to fully make use of. I had two great nights under the stars in a total of three different locations to watch the Milky Way rise in the East in the wee hours of the morning. Upon a quick scan of the photos I saw the regular plane trails which I generally like to leave in as it gives a sense of scale against our galaxy, besides they are usually out of frame quickly enough. It wasn’t until a few days later when looking at the longer exposure shots of my Panasonic GX85 (a camera not renowned for it’s low light capability) that I noticed something significantly more. I wasn’t too worried about the images from my GX85 as that was only for something to do, so I quickly checked the images from my Sony A7R which I had setup on a slider. Sure enough, of the 325 images I shot on my main camera that night, 65 of them had been photobombed by Starlink.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of Starlink is fantastic. The problem I see is that we are only at the beginning here, and if 300 Starlink satellites (number in orbit as of 17th Feb 2020) can cause this sort of damage to a nights shooting, what are we going to do when the full 12,000 are up there? Then there are likely to be competitors as well wanting in on the action. No matter how remote you are on the planet, in a decades time there will not be anywhere on earth where viewing the night sky won’t be significantly degraded by these low orbit satellites.

I really hope Elon and his team are able to find someway of effectively dampening the reflections coming from these satellites and that they then form the basis of what is required of all low orbit satellites going forward. Although I did not see them in this instance (was napping in the car), it is apparent by the camera settings I used that these Starlink satellites will be clearly visible to the naked eye. The below image was shot on my Sony A7R using an exposure of 14 seconds at ISO2000 using a Tamron 15-30mm lens at 15mm and F2.8. Using this combination I could double my exposure time without risking star trails. The brightness of the trails caused by the Starlink satellites in this photo are so extreme that they actually blow the highlights in the RAW file, and this is at half the star trail free exposure time and at a relatively low ISO.

Sony A7R exposure for 14 seconds at ISO2000 using a Tamron 15-30mm @ F2.8.
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