Humboldt County, California.
The big kids in the neighborhood have decided they own the entire block. If you go outside, you’ll have to play what they’re playing. On April 17, 2020, I set out to photograph the Pacific dunes beneath the beautiful night sky, only to find the heavens had been commandeered as I watched satellite after satellite shoot across the sky, each nearly as bright as Venus. Every image had multiple streaks cut through it. As a novelty it was ok, but then I thought of all the people they’re affecting.
Oh, you’re an astronomer? How about a closeup of dozens of satellites flying through your telescopes and pictures? Oh, you’re a radio astronomer — the bullies have noise for you, too! Never fear, their shiny objects have something interfering with nearly every wavelength in the spectrum.
What of the photographer who wants to show the beauty of California’s North Coast under the natural sky — a natural sky that has been the heritage of all humanity since the dawn of time? Would that be ok? Can I arrange a time for that?
What about the wonders of time-lapse astrophotography, such as this time-lapse over the South Fork Eel River Valley showing the Milky Way wheeling by overhead? https://youtu.be/_vH-_IYbD2Y . Shall we fill the skies with streaks, then? How nice that would be.
Next, how about launching advertisements in the form of fake constellations into the heavens? That way, every night a very few people could benefit commercially from all of the people they impact. Think of it: no one could avoid seeing it. How about a Pepsi or Coca Cola logo up there? Or a Nike Swoosh or EXXON — we could all pitch in and be glad to help a few get richer throwing sparkling signs into the heavens. Who wouldn’t be down for contributing to their purses for such a nightly spectacle? The only thing lacking last night was a SpaceX banner being pulled by the last satellite. Maybe I should make one of those for them.
I try to be a good neighbor. I don’t mow the lawn or use the chainsaw too early or too late, because it intrudes unnecessarily on the neighbors. I don’t sit outside the curb thumping music for everyone to hear whether they want to or not. I try not to do things that get into other people’s space. And whatever they’re doing, if it’s not getting on me, I’m fine with it. To me, that’s part of being a good human. It bums me out when someone makes everyone listen to them mowing the lawn at 7 AM, or thumping their BS music. Or driving down the middle of the road. Or throwing their trash out onto the road — or into space — for all to see. How about some respect, you know?
It bums me out when someone or some company feels their business is above the need to respect other people’s space. It shows a galling lack of consideration. Am I to believe that with almost inconceivable technology at their disposal, they cannot keep satellites from being the brightest things in the sky? Really? Maybe they aren’t so smart, then. Or they’re just too cheap, or too lazy, to conquer that problem. No profit in it, maybe? Is that it? If I did nothing if not for profit, I’d be a very poor human.
By all that I’ve read, these were probably SpaceX satellites that had been recently launched. They plan to make a “constellation” of communications satellites. I recognize the benefits. I just wish they were doing it without changing the nature of the heavens for us visually, or electromagnetically for astronomers. Does someone have the right to change the view for an entire world? If so, it must be ok to mow, chainsaw, and blow leaves at any time of the night. Or do they have a responsibility to carry out their mission in an unobtrusive way? I think it’s the latter. I cannot believe they haven’t the means in this day and age.
All of the streaks in these photos from April 17, 2020 are from a continuous procession of satellites my brother and I witnessed filing through the sky. We never saw the end of it, as clouds moved in about 20 minutes after we first saw the satellite train. Every photo from the moment we noticed the satellites has at least several long satellite streaks in it, and some have six or eight individual satellites.
I’m ok with a novelty, and seeing that parade of satellites was a first for me. I took photographs of them from 9:25 until 9:45 PM, when the clouds finally obscured them. For a while, they would pass a spot in the sky and become momentarily extremely bright; I figured that was the point where the sun shone up from beneath the horizon to catch the best reflection off of them and cast it back down at us. That only lasted a few minutes, for as the world turned and the sun’s angle changed, the brightness began to tone down when they passed that area.
As I photographed, we noticed the satellites seemed to be following two specific, parallel paths approximately from Orion’s belt in the SW out through the Big Dipper’s area in the north, where we lost them in the clouds. Though partly cloudy, we could see 4 or five satellites at all times. Many dozens passed by before the clouds settled in.