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This giant, next-generation satellite is now one of the brightest objects in the night sky

A group of people in blue lab coats stand behind a very large satellite array.
AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite is 693 square feet in size. | Image: AST Mobile via Business Wire

The enormous, next-generation communications satellite BlueWalker 3 has become one of the brightest objects visible in the night sky, according to new research published today in the journal Nature.

While BlueWalker 3 is groundbreaking for its ability to essentially turn ordinary smartphones into satellite phones, it might also usher in a new generation of satellites that create way more light pollution than their older, smaller predecessors. Rapidly growing mega-constellations of internet satellites are already mucking up researchers’ observations of worlds beyond Earth. BlueWalker 3 is the brightest satellite in low Earth orbit yet, and astronomers fear it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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