SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
Undefinable lights in last nights sky had many asking questions as to what they were seeing. Phone calls and messages came into the newsroom with one stating “It was so unusual we’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetime.”
The ‘train’ of moving lights across the nighttime sky is part of the SpaceX Starlink growing group of satellites.
“Relative to the observer you’re still in the shadow of the Earth. But, it’s right before sunrise and right before sunset because of the reflected light off of the Earth. This occurs when part of it is already in the light which is angling and reflecting off of the antennas of these satellites," says Howard Hochhalter, Planetarium Manager at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
Starlink 6 was the seventh and latest satellite launch by SpaceX last Wednesday, April 22. This is a cluster of 60 satellites that was launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. These 60 satellites are part of the current network of 420 satellites in orbit around Earth that SpaceX has launched over the last two years. This is all part of the company’s plan to create a satellite constellation which will provide internet service here on Earth.
“Eventually they will arrive in their positions in orbit. Ultimately they are going to be somewhere around 350 miles up away from the surface of the Earth in orbit. They will move out in positions to help sort of blanket the Earth in this communications constellation. They are on the way there, but not there yet,” says Hochhalter.
Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. With four powerful phased array and two parabolic antennas on each satellite, an enormous amount of throughput can be placed and redirected in a short time, for an order of magnitude lower cost than traditional satellite-based internet.
SpaceX aims to have more than 1,000 of its controversial satellites in orbit by the end of the year and has permission from the Federal Communications Commission to launch over 12,000 in total.
Hochhalter states, “One thing you’ll always learn is at you start to look is that you will start to see things. If you look in the sky long enough, you’ll see lots of satellites up there. Starlink is not the only satellites that are up there.”