If you look to the night skies this week, you may notice a mysterious train of lights flying overhead.
But before you worry about an impending alien invasion, thankfully there’s a simple explanation for the lights – they’re SpaceX’s Starlink satellites!
The Starlink satellites form a constellation of thousands of satellites, and are designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
SpaceX is set to launch another 60 satellites into orbit tonight on board a Falcon 9 rocket, before landing the rocket booster back on Earth.
This brings the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to over 500.
Eagle-eyed Brits will have several opportunities to see the Starlink satellites from the UK this week.
Here’s everything you need to know about the satellites, including what they are, and how to see them this week.
Elon Musk hopes the satellites will bring low-cost internet to remote areas on Earth.
Starlink explained: “With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.”
However, several astronomers have raised concerns that one of the satellites could pass in front of a telescope and obscure an image.
In a recent study, published in arXiv, researchers led by Stefano Gallozzi, wrote: “Depending on their altitude and surface reflectivity, their contribution to the sky brightness is not negligible for professional ground based observations.
“With the huge amount of about 50,000 new artificial satellites for telecommunications planned to be launched in Medium and Low Earth Orbit, the mean density of artificial objects will be of >1 satellite for square sky degree; this will inevitably harm professional astronomical images.”
Brits will have several opportunities to see the new and existing Starlink satellites from the UK this week.
According to Find Starlink, the satellites will be visible from the UK at:
11:43 pm, 8 July 2020
1:19 am, 9 July 2020
10:42 pm, 9 July 2020
12:18 am, 10 July 2020
11:18 pm, 10 July 2020
12:54 am, 11 July 2020