What Are Those Odd Moving Lights In The Sky At Night? The ‘Starlink’ Satellites of Elon Musk are explained
Line Of Lights In The Sky : If you’ve lately looked up at the night sky, you may have noticed a train of bright lights moving across the sky from one side to the other. What exactly is going on?
In a lengthy line, the lights emerge in groups of up to 60. There have been several stories of individuals sighting them in areas like the United States and the United Kingdom, with interpretations ranging from UFOs to an alien invasion. Yes, of course.
But don’t be concerned. These lights are satellites launched into space by Elon Musk, a South African entrepreneur who founded the SpaceX firm in the United States. They’re also a little contentious.
The satellites are part of a programme known as Starlink. SpaceX is working on a proposal to put thousands of satellites into orbit and beam internet down to Earth from space.
SpaceX intends to utilise the money to support Mars expeditions.
Since the first launch in May of this year, SpaceX has launched approximately 360 satellites.
Each is about the size of a flattened vehicle and weighs about 260 kilos, with a big solar panel that reflects sunlight.
The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to cover the entire space surrounding Earth with these satellites.
They intend to launch at least 12,000 and possibly as many as 42,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. A mega constellation is what this is called.
The satellites are launched in 60-satellite groups, with SpaceX planning to launch two batches every month — though they haven’t quite hit that target yet.
Each time the satellites are launched, they are placed into orbit roughly 290 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, using the company’s own reusable Falcon 9 rockets.
The satellites then use their inbuilt ion engines to boost their height to between 340 and 550 kilometres, which is their operational orbit. It may take several months to complete this task.
Because of their reflecting surfaces, satellites might look particularly visible in the night sky during these months when they travel over your location.
When the Sun has fallen just below the horizon after dark and before dawn, the satellites reflect the Sun’s light back onto the earth, making them quite dazzling.
They look as a dazzling train of lights as they pass overhead, as the satellites follow one another in orbit.
The goal of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to beam high-speed internet to every area on the planet, from London to Antarctica.
People will subsequently have to pay a charge to use the service, which will have speeds that are slower than fibre broadband but quicker than current satellite internet offerings.
However, some have expressed reservations about the quantity of satellites SpaceX plans to launch.
Currently, there are roughly 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth; SpaceX plans to raise this number by six times, and maybe by twenty-one times.
Satellites colliding in Earth orbit face a significant risk as a result of this.
When two spacecraft crash, hundreds of microscopic particles of debris might be produced. This occurred in 2009 when a US and Russian satellite collided.
Each of these shards of junk has the potential to collide with other satellites.
The “Kessler syndrome,” popularised in the film Gravity, might result in a worst-case situation in which regions of Earth orbit become unusable.
Another source of concern is that the spacecraft are extremely bright, outshining 99 percent of other satellites in the night sky.
Astronomers have complained that the satellites are interfering with their ability to explore the universe as a result of this.
In telescopic photos, the satellites can appear as brilliant streaks, obstructing observations of galaxies and stars.
Astronomers have expressed concerns about the amount of satellites that will be visible in the night sky as more are launched.
Hundreds of Starlink satellites might be visible in the night sky from any location on Earth, according to some estimates.
This might degrade the night sky’s natural beauty and make astronomy considerably more difficult.
There are currently no laws or restrictions in place to protect the night sky’s appearance.
However, some people want to change that, and are considering taking legal action against SpaceX.
For its part, SpaceX claims it is working to address these issues.
It claims that each of its satellites is equipped with an automated system to avoid colliding with other spacecraft.
However, this mechanism failed in September 2019, resulting in a close brush with a European science satellite.
The corporation also claims to be working on reducing the brightness of the satellites.
It launched a Starlink satellite in January 2020 that had been covered in a darker paint to reduce reflectivity.
Early evidence suggests that this satellite seemed dimmer than other Starlink satellites when it entered operational orbit.
During the months it took to reach this orbit, however, it remained bright.
The corporation is also collaborating with astronomy organisations to see whether there are any ways to reduce the influence of Starlink satellites on astronomers’ work.
Elon Musk, on the other hand, believes there will be “zero” issues.
So far, SpaceX has launched 3% of its original intended constellation of 12,000 satellites, as well as 0.9 percent of the potential 42,000 satellites.
Many of the faults with the satellites, according to critics, should have been resolved before SpaceX began launching them.
For the time being, however, there are no restrictions preventing SpaceX from launching more Starlink satellites into space.
Before the coronavirus epidemic, the corporation planned to launch roughly 1,500 Starlink satellites by the end of 2020, with the service launching initially in the United States and Canada. That may no longer be the case.
However, you will most likely continue to observe these satellite trains in the night sky for the time being.
To see when they will be visible above your area, utilise websites like Find Starlink or this handy tool.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 22nd, SpaceX will launch its seventh Starlink satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.