What Was That Strange Line of Lights in the Night Sky?


SAN ANGELO, TX — A peculiar line of lights witnessed in the night sky this past weekend led many to speculate about a potential UFO sighting. The lights, which appeared in a straight-line formation, occasionally arranged themselves diagonally and vertically, sparking curiosity and confusion among observers.

However, these lights were not extraterrestrial at all. What people reported seeing was a Starlink Satellite Train. Starlink, an internet service provided by SpaceX, operates via a constellation of satellites. As of 2024, there are approximately 6,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, with plans to deploy as many as 42,000 satellites to complete the network. New satellites are launched weekly, initially appearing in a single-file line as they ascend to their designated orbits.

Upon deployment, the satellites maneuver in a straight line at the same altitude and speed. Over the following days, as the Starlink train moves along its orbit, each satellite gradually "parks" in its designated position. Eventually, the visible train dissipates, and the satellites become difficult to spot without a telescope.

This infographic explains many of the misidentified UFOs (or identifies from where or what a typical UFO really is). Infographic on Misidentified UFOs.

While the Starlink project aims to establish a network of 42,000 satellites, it has raised concerns among the scientific community. The brightness of the Starlink satellites initially posed a significant problem for astronomical research, as they obstructed views from space telescopes, including those at observatories like the one in Fort Davis. In response, SpaceX has started to coat new Starlink satellites with non-reflective surfaces to mitigate this issue.

Moreover, SpaceX has a protocol in place for dealing with malfunctioning satellites. If a satellite fails, the company can "de-orbit" it, directing it back towards Earth, where it will burn up upon re-entering the atmosphere.

Additional Facts about Starlink Satellites

  • Global Internet Coverage: Starlink aims to provide global internet coverage, particularly targeting remote and underserved areas where traditional internet infrastructure is lacking.
  • Satellite Altitude: Starlink satellites operate at low Earth orbit (LEO), approximately 550 kilometers above the Earth. This is much closer than traditional geostationary satellites, which orbit at around 35,000 kilometers.
  • Latency and Speed: The lower altitude of Starlink satellites results in lower latency compared to traditional satellite internet services. Users can experience latencies as low as 20 milliseconds, making it suitable for real-time applications like video calls and online gaming.
  • Phased Array Antennas: Each Starlink satellite is equipped with phased array antennas, which allow them to communicate with multiple ground stations simultaneously and switch between them rapidly, ensuring continuous coverage.
  • Laser Links: Future Starlink satellites will be equipped with laser links to communicate with each other in space, reducing the need for ground stations and increasing the network's efficiency and coverage.
  • Collision Avoidance: Starlink satellites are equipped with autonomous collision avoidance systems that use data from the U.S. Department of Defense's debris tracking system to move out of the way of potential collisions.

In terms of service, Starlink provides a fast and stable internet connection. At San Angelo LIVE!, we use Starlink for remote work, and it costs approximately $120 per month.

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