In a quest to establish robust connectivity for the planet’s ultra-high-speed internet connection, many space cooperations and state agencies continue to deploy mega-constellations of broadband satellites. After a few satellite launch missions in August 2019, experts predict that the satellite chains cost observatories and space tourism locations in South Canterbury.
There is a proposed inauguration of over 100,000 satellites by Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink project and a Luxembourg corporation, LeoSats, to provide ultra-high-speed web access. Steve Butler, the director of Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, said the massive satellite constellations destroy the dark skies in Mackenzie District, costing the region approximately $12 million annually. Initially, the trial of several satellites overcrowded the New Zealand skies. But stargazers worldwide continue to criticize the satellite launch programs because they cause light pollution from reflected sunlight.
Steve Butler said that Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve received accreditation in 2012. The international tourism company’s expenditure increased by approximately 225% to around $17 million, before the COVID-19 global pandemic. Domestic tourism generates an additional $8 million annually. The gradual degeneration of clear night skies’ serenity potentially places the company’s spend to an extra 50%, approximately $12 million annually in lost tourism revenue.
Experts say that Mt John Observatory is at risk of closure because of the light pollution due to reflected sunlight from the satellites. The shutdown of the facility is a destroys Mackenzie District’s reputation as a Dark Sky Reserve. Mt John observatories is a facility used for scientific work; its closure is a significant setback to humanity’s research study and discoveries. The Mackenzie District’s recognition as a Dark Sky Reserve depends on credible astronomy and scientific research facilities accessible to the general public.
Butler said that the satellites in the Earth’s orbit affected astrophotography, astronomical research studies, and humanity’s idea of the clear stars Milky Way. Steve Butler is also the deputy director of New Zealand’s Royal Astronomical Society. He said that few dark skies observatories are the gateway to making discoveries in the universe. Nearly 80% of the planet’s population never observe dark skies from their place of residence.
Steve said that dark sky gateways are at risk from an obscuring cloud of satellites and junk from space vehicles. Karen Pollard, a professor in astronomy and chairman of the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory, said that the massive satellite constellations cause a detrimental effect on Astro-tourism, particularly astrophotography. In summary, there is a growing popularity of night skies’ significance and the increasing awareness of light pollution resulting from human space activities.