SpaceX Starlink satellites to be visible all week 'like a string of bright pearls', astronomers say

String of satellites launched to beam high-speed internet down to Earth

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 21 April 2020 21:23
SpaceX starlink satellite's to be visible all week

Satellites launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX will be visible in the skies above the UK for the rest of the week, according to astronomers.

The Starlink satellites, which were launched in March, appeared on Sunday and Monday night in a long train passing overhead.

SpaceX has sent up 300 of its Starlink satellites in batches of 60 with the aim of creating a 12,000-strong constellation capable of beaming high-speed internet back down to Earth.

The National Space Centre said the string of satellites have become visible in recent days due to their low orbit, their angle in relation to the sun, and good weather conditions.

"Initially, the spacing of the satellites and their proximity to the planet's surface mean they look like a 'string of bright pearls' in the night sky, making them very easy to spot," the NSC explained.

"But over time they distance themselves from each other and move further into space, making them less obvious to the casual observer."

Another batch of the Starlink satellites is set to launch later this month, meaning there will be more opportunities to see them.

SpaceX is one of several private space firms aiming to deliver broadband internet connectivity to underserved areas of the planet through low-orbit satellites.

Some astronomers have criticised the projects, claiming that the satellites could interfere with optical and radio astronomy observations.

Others have played down any concerns, saying that the interference will be minimal. Oliver Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory in Germany told Nature last year that the satellites would only affect around 0.8 per cent of their telescopes' observations, saying, "we are pretty sure it won't be a problem for us".

SpaceX said it is coordinating with the European radio astronomy community and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory to minimise their impact.

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