A Starlink Satellite Swarm

   Growing up during the 1960s I often spent many evenings outside with my father watching for satellites to pass over where we lived. I learned how to differentiate between an airplane and a satellite by watching the object as it approached the horizon. An airplane lights may be followed all the way to the horizon while the reflected sunlight from a satellite appears and disappears above the horizon as the satellite moves out of and then back into the Earth’s shadow. This was the early days of satellite technology and the time of communication satellites like Telstar, as well as satellites we presumed were Russian spy satellites.
      In today’s world satellites and space exploration have lost some of the public awareness and popularity. However there are many easy to see satellites including the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, a variety of communication satellites, and most recently the Starlink Satellites.
   The Starlink is a satellite built by SpaceX for the intention of providing satellite Internet access. Initially the focus will be on satellites providing Internet connection for much of North America but with the eventual launching of around 12,000 satellites the entire globe may have satellite Internet access.
   Currently the Starlink satellites appear in groups of 50 or so and look like a string of bright pearls stretched across the sky. Watch the video below of the Starlink Satellites passing over England.
   The Starlink Satellites move rapidly compared to the ISS and the group last night, in my pictures, were around 2nd magnitude or brighter. The group moved out the northwest past the Big Dipper and Arcturus toward the southeast. The satellites appear as streaks of light because the pictures were time exposures lasting 5 or 6 seconds each.

Use the Heavens Above web site for maps and times for viewing the ISS, Starlink and other satellites.
Use the NASA ISS Sightings web site for specific viewing times and directions for your location.
Use this web site, What the Astronauts See Right Now, for a simulated view from the ISS looking down at the Earth’s surface it is orbiting over.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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5 thoughts on “A Starlink Satellite Swarm

  1. Wow, I haven’t spotted the Starlinks yet. I understand that ground-based astronomers aren’t too happy with how bright they are – I suppose it’s worse for visual-light astronomers. Starlink will be as striking as the occassioanl Iridium “flare.”

    Like

    • The Iridium flare was/is fun to spot but they are temporary. The string that passed over last night lasted more than 1 minute. I had enough time to go back in the house and get Sue to come out for a look.
      And yes Astronomers of all levels are complaining and are worried.
      Check out the Heavens-Above web site for viewing. I was ready to quit after not seeing any and then boom there they were. I was expecting one at a time for some reason not the swarm I saw.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As interesting as satellites are to watch, particularly the ISS, the Starlink venture will place thousands of satellites in orbit and make life very difficult for astronomers.

    Musk breaks no laws – there are no laws – but he is wilfully destroying the night sky for personal gain.

    Liked by 1 person

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