Astronomy and Satellite Constellations: Pathways Forward

By Fabio Giovanardi and Michael Lindqvist

Several CRAF members participated in the IAU385 Symposium, October 2023. It took place against the stunning backdrop of La Palma in the Canary Islands. This remarkable event was organised by the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) new specialised center, the Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (CPS) co-hosted by NSF’s NOIRLab and the SKA Observatory (SKAO). The local organiser was the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. Themed “Astronomy and Satellite Constellations – Pathways Forward,” the meeting brought together astronomers, industry experts, representatives from international policy forums such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as well as other stakeholders.

Together, we all engaged in illuminating and productive dialogues, focusing on the ongoing initiatives and strategies devised to address the multifaceted impact of satellite constellations on the realms of both optical and radio astronomy. In recent years, the proliferation of satellites in low Earth orbit has been nothing short of dramatic, with projections indicating a potential presence of 100,000 satellites by 2030. This surge in satellite numbers has implications that extend beyond astronomy. It raises concerns about collision risks and the resultant increase in space debris, which, in turn, poses a threat not only to operational satellites but also to the safety and sustainability of outer space.

Recorded presentations and the comprehensive proceedings of this significant symposium will be made available to the public in the upcoming weeks. These invaluable resources promise to provide a wealth of knowledge and insights, serving as a cornerstone for both the scientific community and the general public. It will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the ongoing discourse surrounding the coexistence of astronomy and the growing presence of satellite constellations in our skies.