Visibility Predictions for Near-Future Satellite Megaconstellations: Latitudes near 50 Degrees will Experience the Worst Light Pollution
Megaconstellations of thousands to tens of thousands of artificial satellites (satcons) are rapidly being developed and launched. These satcons will have negative consequences for observational astronomy research, and are poised to drastically interfere with naked-eye stargazing worldwide should mitigation efforts be unsuccessful. Here we provide predictions for the optical brightnesses and on-sky distributions of several satcons, including Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, and StarNet/GW, for a total of 65,000 satellites on their filed or predicted orbits. We develop a simple model of satellite reflectivity, which is calibrated using published Starlink observations. We use this model to estimate the visible magnitudes and on-sky distributions for these satellites as seen from different places on Earth, in different seasons, and different times of night. For latitudes near 50 degrees North and South, satcon satellites make up a few percent of all visible point sources all night long near the summer solstice, as well as near sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes. Altering the satellites' altitudes only changes the specific impacts of the problem. Without drastic reduction of the reflectivities, or significantly fewer total satellites in orbit, satcons will significantly change the night sky worldwide.