Have you ever been surprised by a moving train of bright light in the night sky? If you were, then you aren’t the only victim here. Many people have been perplexed by this weird phenomenon, and some have even chalked it up to alien activity.
Thankfully, it’s just Starlink satellites. If it is a satellite, then why would it make a plume-like a meteor rather than a single moving dot? That’s because it is a cluster of satellites, and here, you can learn more about the SpaceX program behind the lights.
Starlink is the satellite network that has been developed by SpaceX, the private spaceflight company under Elon Musk. They have a lifespan of 5 years approximately, and SpaceX hopes to develop a mega-constellation to provide high-speed broadband connection around the world.
According to the Starlink website: “Starlink is a constellation of thousands of satellites that orbit the planet much closer to Earth, at about 550km, and cover the entire globe.”
Starlink satellites orbit around 342 miles above Earth and are relatively close. Once the satellites reach the altitude, they disperse and can look like stars in the night sky or a linear pearl string of lights. They do not have lights of their own and reflect sunlight. The satellites are also commonly misidentified as UFOs and are called ‘satellite train’ or ‘space train.’
The bright space train was a surprise to the astronomical community as well as SpaceX.
However, this caused an uproar among Astrophotographers. As a large number of satellites are being launched into the sky, the ‘satellite pollution’ makes it increasingly harder for astronomers to observe space. In fact, Elon Musk’s plan to launch 42000 satellites will make the condition even worse for observers.
No, Starlink satellites do not emit light and reflect sunlight, as their solar panels are highly reflective. The sunlight is thus reflected in our direction. Since the satellites are at a low altitude after launch, they are more visible; as they later raise their orbits and create a shield, the satellites become less visible.
The ascending Space X rocket with Starlink satellites can create a huge glowing plume in the sky. People can spot the train of bright dots moving across the sky, and each dot is a Starlink satellite. Generally, there are around 50 satellites that head upward from the Earth, and due to their highly reflective solar panels, they look like a moving train of dots.
So now you have all the data you need to not freak out during the next Starlink launch. The next Starlink satellite launch, named Falcon 9, is scheduled on September 20 at 7:17 a.m. from Florida, United States, so you can look forward to the bright lights again.
Comment down below if you observed the space train, too, and your thoughts on sky pollution.