If you’ve been watching the night skies in Central Pa. recently and caught a glimpse of some strange lines of lights following each other, no one could blame you if you thought you’d seen a UFO. But those weird lights aren’t space invaders – they’re actually a train of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites in low earth orbit.
SpaceX’s ambitious project aims to have a “mega-constellation” of 42,000 satellites providing global internet coverage. As of November 18, 2023, there are already 5,445 Starlink satellites in orbit, according to a website tracking their launches.
The satellites orbit the planet at an altitude of around 342 miles. Normally, they don’t stand out prominently in the sky at their operational altitude. However, during the initial days after launch, they orbit at lower altitudes, making them more visible as they reflect sunlight off their panels. It’s worth noting that the satellites themselves do not emit any light.
With plans to launch tens of thousands more, these sightings of Starlink satellite trains at lower altitudes are likely to become more frequent and captivating for viewers.
If you’re interested in witnessing the spectacular sight of the satellite trains, you can use the website “Find Starlink” to find out when they will pass over your location.
While these sightings are certainly awe-inspiring, they also come with concerns. Astronomers have voiced their worries about the negative impact of the massive constellation on astronomical observations. The satellites often disrupt images captured by telescopes, including the renowned Hubble Space Telescope.
Moreover, some have raised concerns about the risk of collisions in Earth’s orbit, highlighting the Starlink constellation as the “number one source of collision hazard.” There are also concerns about the potential climate impact when these satellites burn up in the atmosphere.
Despite these concerns, the sight of Starlink satellites creating dazzling light displays against the backdrop of the night sky is an undeniable testament to the progress of technology and human exploration of space.