In later exchanges, though, he struck a more understanding tone.
Starlink would avoid the frequencies associated with radio astronomy, he said,
and if the satellites' orientations needed to be tweaked to minimise solar reflection
during critical astronomical experiments, that could easily be done.
Moreover, as the initial Starlink satellites moved into their operational configuration after the weekend,
their brightness dropped—though they still occasionally flared as they crossed the sky,
probably because of reflections from their large solar panels.
Mr Musk also seemed, in his tweets, to suggest that the aims of Starlink outweighed the harms.
"Potentially helping billions of economically disadvantaged people is the greater good.
That said, we'll make sure Starlink has no material effect on discoveries in astronomy. We care a great deal about science."
His assertion has merit. The problem, as Mark McCaughrean,
senior adviser for science and exploration at the European Space Agency, observes,
is that there has been little public discussion of the matter.
From his point of view the night sky is a public commons that risks appropriation in the name of private interest.
Whether that appropriation serves the greater good should at least be a matter of debate.
For now, astronomers plan to carry out further simulations of the potential impacts of Starlink
and other communication-satellite networks planned by companies such as OneWeb.
But even when that work is complete, it is unclear what they can actually do to make SpaceX
and its competitors listen to their concerns, for there is no legislation to regulate the impact of satellites on the night sky.
America's Federal Communications Commission does concern itself with
how satellites use the available radio spectrum and with what happens to them after they have done their job.
But that is it. With the coming mega-constellations of communications satellites,
it is perhaps time for this to change, and for governments (not only America's) to involve themselves more deeply in the uses of heaven.