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UN Poised to Consider Satellite Interference with Astronomy

FEB 26, 2024
Potential study of satellite constellation impacts hailed as “significant diplomatic moment for astronomy.”
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Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
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(AIP)

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) may start formally studying the impact of satellite interference with astronomy.

A subcommittee agreed this month to propose that COPUOS take up the topic, and the full committee will vote on whether to do so at a meeting in June. However, COPUOS will require unanimous approval by the committee’s 103 member countries to pursue the issue, and a similar effort was rejected last year.

The number of satellites in orbit has spiked in recent years and is likely to continue growing, prompting concerns from astronomers about how light and radio interference from these satellites could hinder telescopes.

“This is a significant diplomatic moment for astronomy,” said Richard Green, interim director of the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference, in a statement reacting to the subcommittee action. “Since the first constellation launches in 2019, we have been working hard to raise awareness of this issue with all relevant parties and at all levels. It’s very gratifying to see the United Nations recognize its importance and agree to look into the issues and challenges posed by large constellations,” he added.

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