United Nations agrees to address impact of satellite constellations on astronomy

15. února 2024

Delegations representing 102 countries agreed last week to discuss the impact of large satellite constellations on astronomy at a meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS).

After intense discussions, COPUOS’ Scientific and Technical Subcommittee has agreed to add an agenda item for the next five years with the title: "Dark and Quiet Skies, astronomy and large constellations: addressing emerging issues and challenges". As the UN’s top body for space-related matters, the committee deals with all topics related to international cooperation and the exploration of space and planetary bodies, including the deployment of satellites, space debris mitigation, long-term sustainability of space and the use of orbital slots.

The proposal championed by ESO’s partner and host state Chile and ESO’s member state Spain — both countries hosting significant international astronomy infrastructure — was informed by the astronomy community and received widespread support from many delegations [1]. Permanent observers on the committee, including ESO, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the European Astronomical Society (EAS), and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) were also involved in the efforts.

This is a significant moment for astronomy and a culmination of several years of our hard work and engagement,” said Andrew Williams, ESO’s External Relations Officer and representative at COPUOS. “The agenda item will encourage the governments of many countries to act and increase the focus on finding solutions to protect dark and quiet skies.

Richard Green, acting director of the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (CPS), added: “Since the first constellation launches in 2019, we have been working hard to raise awareness of this issue with all relevant parties and at all levels. It’s very gratifying to see the United Nations recognise its importance and agree to look into the issues and challenges posed by large constellations.

Mila Francisco, Chilean diplomat and alternate representative to the UN Office in Vienna, said: “Chile places great importance on protecting international public investments in astronomy infrastructure, many of which we host in Chile. It’s been very valuable engaging with astronomers to understand their concerns and discussing these concerns with other delegations in a spirit of compromise and agreeing to a way forward.” Chile is a long-standing partner of ESO and hosts all of the organisation’s observatories.

The provisional agenda item will now go before the full committee in June to be endorsed. The inclusion of a dedicated agenda item will open up more time for in-depth discussions between delegations, with the ultimate goal being to develop and agree recommendations to be adopted by UN Member States.

This recent success reflects a growing recognition of the importance of preserving dark and quiet skies for astronomical research and humanity’s cultural heritage, and mitigating the impacts of large satellite constellations on observational astronomy.


[1] Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czechia, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands (Kingdom of), Paraguay, Peru, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland.



Andrew Williams
ESO External Relations Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel.: +49 89 320 062 78
Email: awilliam@eso.org

Bárbara Ferreira
ESO Media Manager
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
Email: press@eso.org

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A cosmic rainbow over the VLT
A cosmic rainbow over the VLT