Philadelphia – a string of flashing lights across the night sky on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in some parts of the United States, some wondered if a fleet of UFOs were coming, but there were others in it – mostly amateur starcars and professional astronomers – the place lamenting industrialization.
The train of lights is actually a series of relatively low-flying satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX as part of its Starling internet service earlier this week. Callers turned television stations into swamps Texas To Wisconsin Reporting lights and reporting on UFOs.
An email to SpaceX’s spokesman did not return Saturday, but astronomers said they could quickly identify the number of incoming lights and their distance from Earth to those accustomed to seeing them as Starling satellites.
“The way you can tell they ‘Starling satellites’ are like strings of pearls, these lights travel in the same basic orbit, one after the other,” said Dr. Richard Feinberg, a press officer with the American Astronomical Society.
According to Feinberg, satellites sent into large groups called galaxies go into orbit together, especially as soon as they are launched. The strings get smaller as time goes on.
This month, SpaceX has already launched dozens of satellites. As part of a plan to prevent digital splits and bring Internet access to lesser parts of the world, SpaceX is temporarily planning to launch another 120 satellites later this month. In total, the company has launched about 1,500 satellites into orbit and is seeking permission to launch thousands of missiles.
But before recent years, there were a total of a few hundred satellites orbiting the earth, which are often known as separate lights moving across the sky, Feinberg said. Some other companies that plan or launch satellite galaxies have not been launched recently and are often pushed into orbit far away from Earth, he said.
Feinberg’s team and others representing professional and amateur stargazers do not like the proliferation of satellites that could obscure scientific data and ruin the clear night of viewing the universe. The International Astronomical Union released a report in July 2019 citing concerns over several satellite launches.
“This organization, in general, adopts the principle of a dark and radio peaceful sky, which is not only necessary to advance our understanding of the universe of which we are a part, but also a resource for all mankind and for the protection of nightlife,” wrote the association’s representatives. They noted, however, that radio waves can also cause problems for specialized research equipment such as the first images captured of the black hole.
Feinberg said there was no real control over light pollution from satellites, but SpaceX volunteered to mitigate it by creating visions that reflected the satellites’ sunlight. They have made significant progress in two years, but many believe the satellites will be so low one day that they are not even visible to the naked eye at dusk or dawn.
Feinberg noted that a large telescope is being built in Chile at a cost of millions of dollars and a decade of planning. The telescope captures a large area of the sky in the southern hemisphere and takes a series of pictures to record a kind of film showing the universe changing. Its size, being almost eight meters across, could also lead to massive telescopes detecting faint objects in the night sky, he said.
The telescope is scheduled to record in 2023. And with plans for thousands of satellites, Feinberg says it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t cause data problems because there’s no way to fix their lights. Light must be emitted from any dim objects behind the path of the satellites, which may also create ghost images in the data.
“We are now talking to companies and hope to continue to make progress, and when it comes into operation, we have the tools and techniques to fix lights and dim satellites,” Feinberg said. “We can not say this is wrong, you have to stop, because its main feature is to provide internet access to the whole world.