Starlink satellites: the straight line of lights in the sky over Spain explained

Starlink satellites: the straight line of lights in the sky over Spain explained

Once again Elon Musk is behind odd sightings in the night sky: his company aims to deploy 12,000 satellites to "offer high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive or unavailable"

Almudena Nogués

Tuesday, 14 February 2023, 10:39

A line of mysterious lights could be seen crossing the sky of Spain on Monday evening, mainly visible from Zaragoza, Bilbao and Barcelona. They were, however, not UFOs; these are the latest Starlink satellites launched by Elon Musk's company SpaceX. These small points of light cross the sky perfectly aligned, causing surprise among those who witness them.

But what is behind it? For a clearer picture, we spoke to astrophysicist José María Madiedo, from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), and the researcher responsible for Smart Project, which aims to continuously monitor the sky to record and study the impact on the atmosphere.

“These are artificial satellites. For days after launch, the satellites could be seen streaking across the night sky in a single line. With time, these satellites separate from each other and that straight line is no longer visible."

The astrophysicist continued, “SpaceX plans to launch new satellites later (until completing a total of no fewer than almost twelve thousand), so it is foreseeable that sightings of this type will be repeated very frequently.”

Starlink is the project owned by billionaire Elon Musk, and forms a constellation of thousands of small satellites that will orbit at altitudes between 450 and 1,200 kilometres. The aim is to provide internet coverage as well as multiple applications in scientific, civil and military fields.

The satellites have four powerful antennas for optimal performance and weigh 260 kilos. In addition to this, when they reach the end of their life, they de-orbit themselves without interfering with other satellites. Launched in batches of 60, the satellites will drift apart over time and will only be visible at dusk and dawn, but they have already turned out to be brighter than expected.

Astronomers have warned that some of the large solar panels on the satellites are reflecting sunlight to Earth and hindering studies of space and that they could be brighter than some stars.

Elon Musk has denied that his satellites will hinder any study and said the cause of taking internet to millions of people with fewer economic resources is the greater good.



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