Stars or 5G satellites? Katherine Roberts votes for stars.

Starry Night - Vincent Van Gogh

As a child staring up in wonder at the night sky, I became friends with the Great Bear, Orion, the Seven Sisters, the Little Bear, the North Star, and many other familiar constellations that inspired me to write the fantasy and science fiction stories that grew into my published books. A school trip to the London Planetarium, aged 13, is lodged firmly in my memory as an awesome event. Even today, living in an urban environment polluted by streetlights, on clear nights I can still see quite a few of the 9,000 stars that are visible to the human eye, although a trip to rural Wales for dark skies always amazes me.

But for how much longer? A company called SpaceX is currently launching the first few hundred of a proposed 12,000 satellites to deliver 5G wireless communications to every corner of the Earth. This is in addition to the land-based 5G transmitters various mobile phone companies are currently rolling out in urban areas (plus a few token rural experiments), coming to a streetlamp near you soon. You might be one of the many people who got a 5G-enabled device for Christmas, but do you understand exactly what "fifth generation wireless" means for the human race, insects, animals, plants and the environment? Because it's not as simple as 4G +1, despite what the tech companies would like us all to believe.

Even if you do not suffer from health problems triggered or worsened by wireless radiation (as I and many others now do), if you don't worry about your privacy, even if you care nothing about the fate of honeybees, about birds mysteriously dropping out of the sky, cats keeling over on the garden path for no apparent reason, trees being chopped down so they don't block the signals, or the general rise in temperature of the planet from all the microwave frequencies, 5G in space is likely to be a total disaster for stargazers. According to this appeal by astronomers, these low-orbit satellites will not only “greatly outnumber the approximately 9,000 stars that are visible to the unaided human eye,” but will “reach the brightness of the stars in the Ursa Minor constellation,” and will be “exceeded in brightness only by 172 stars in the whole sky.” Stargazing, it seems, will soon be history.

When your children look up at the night sky, what do you wish them to see? Stars or 5G? The choice is yours.

Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young readers. She would like them to look up and see the stars, rather than have to stare at a 5G screen to see what the night sky used to look like "once upon a time".


Griselda Heppel said…
What a dreadful prospect. I remember black night skies literally studded with stars when I was a teenager, when walking home up the road it was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of my face (bit scary, that). Few people are lucky enough to see that nowadays, and with these new satellites - yikes. But what can we do? Plans are clearly far advanced. I've followed the link to the Astronomers' Appeal and shared it on facebook. Thanks for spreading this. I had no idea and I'll bet the same is true for most people.
Probably true that not many people are aware of them yet. I still can't quite believe it's not science fiction (like the panic spread by the War of the Worlds when it was on the radio, maybe?). But if the reported numbers are correct, I guess there will be whole new constellations (of satellites) pretty soon... I vote we call one of them 'the Unicorn'.

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