AN ASTROPHOTOGRAPHER intending to snap a shooting star shared his 'horror' when he instead captured more than 30 satellites during the Perseid meteor shower.

Wil Cheung, founder of Twice Brewed Stargazing, was hoping to capture celestial activity during a six-second exposure photo at Twice Brewed, based in the International Dark Sky Park of Northumberland. 

"Instead to my horror, more than 30 satellites are in the single frame. In the past, it wasn’t always common to capture one on camera. Last year, I caught six in one photo and that was alarming, and now 30, will it be 300 in a few years' time?" he said.

Hexham Courant: Wil's photograph showing 30 satellites Wil's photograph showing 30 satellites (Image: Wil Cheung)

Elon Musk's American aerospace company SpaceX developed the low-Earth orbit satellite network known as Starlink to disseminate low-cost internet and broadband alternatives to remote locations on a global scale.

Since Starlink started launching satellites in 2019, it has more than 4,500 in orbit as of July this year according to Jonathan McDowell, astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who tracks Starlinks on his website.

Meanwhile, UK-based aerospace rival OneWeb has more than 600 satellites now in orbit. 

SpaceX hopes to increase its total number to 42,000 satellites, as reported by the space news site, to add to its so-called mega-constellation.

Although the Starlink constellation is primarily focused on providing internet access, there is also the potential for Earth observation research due to its sheer size, allowing researchers to study global climate change.  

Wil said: "These mega-constellations are a serious concern for astronomers and those who enjoy looking at the night sky. 

"The problem is not just Starlink. Other nations are planning their own mega-constellations so there could be hundreds of thousands of satellites in the end.

"We all have a right to view the beauty of the night sky and the thought of artificial satellites creating light pollution impacting this is very worrying.

"Starlinks are now impacting on radio astronomy as well which means not only will it impact our visual observing, but research itself," Wil said.

There are no strict international rules in place that regulate how companies operate mega-constellations while in orbit, however, each company must have its plans assessed by a national regulator to orbit the Earth.