Recently, Emlen saw something astonishing in the night sky. “It was a whole stream of these major bubbles that passed through the sky,” he says. “Every one of those blobs was more intense than the brightest planet in the sky.”

He says the blobs were SpaceX satellites, recently launched to deliver Internet to remote areas from low-Earth orbit. In the future, there could be tens of thousands of these bright objects launched into the night. “I do think that will completely screw up birds that are up there at night,” he says.

We do know that there are some things that birds can adapt to. The Earth’s axis actually wobbles slightly, which means Polaris won’t be the North Star forever. In fact, in around 13,000 years, the star Vega will take the position. We know from the buntings in the planetarium that birds will learn to spot it. They’ll pay attention to changes in the stars, Emlen says, “and lock into whatever works.”

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