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Astonished stargazers spotted Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites over the UK

A ‘train of satellites’ spun across the UK, launched by SpaceX, has been described as ‘UFO-like’ by stargazers described in rural areas of the country.

The Elon Musk company launched the first 60 of its “Starlink constellation” of internet satellites in May 2019, with another 60 sent to space in November.

The light trail, in a perfectly straight line, is particularly prominent in areas far from light pollution, including rural Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

A number of users went to social media to wonder if the bright white lights were the start of an alien invasion – before they discovered that they were just satellites.

The small satellites will be visible again over parts of the UK on New Year’s Eve Even from around 5:20 PM GMT, especially in areas with dark sky, astronomers say.

Twitter user @ysljunhoe said: ‘My mother says they are UFOs – literally shooting like stars flying through the sky in London – apparently they are starlink satellites.

“Love an alien invasion on Christmas.”

Stephen Frampton said he counted 13 lights in a line that all moved through the air in the same direction.

He said: “I hoped they were UFOs. Since discovered [it was] Starlink SpaceX satellites. Pretty cool. “

Jennifer Williams, who saw the Starlink satellites from her home in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, first said she was wondering what they were.

“It looked a bit creepy, but then we googled it and found that they were part of the SpaceX program,” she said.

‘The evening was so clear and we were able to see the stars very clearly, so they stood out really well. It certainly ensured a conversation. “

The train of lights was spotted in the UK, particularly in dark skies such as Shropshire and the Peak District

The train of lights was spotted in the UK, particularly in dark skies such as Shropshire and the Peak District

Another stargazer, Mark Le Coultre, said the night sky was dotted with stars as usual because of the very low levels of light pollution in his hometown of Shawbury, Shropshire.

“The sky was cloudless and when I looked at the crescent, I noticed a strange procession on the far right of what looked like moving stars that were equally spaced.

“There seemed to be at least 30 of these lights at an extremely high altitude.”

“I know it wasn’t a commercial plane, because the single light as bright as a star didn’t flash on every moving object.”

There are currently 122 Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth and seen as a train of white lights in the sky, as seen here in this photo taken in Derbyshire

There are currently 122 Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth and seen as a train of white lights in the sky, as seen here in this photo taken in Derbyshire

There are currently 122 Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth and seen as a train of white lights in the sky, as seen here in this photo taken in Derbyshire

Tom Sparrow, who filmed the satellites, told it BBC they were ‘quite a spectacle’.

“It’s a strange sight, I knew they were a train, so when I saw two, I knew what it was.

“If you’ve ever seen the international space station ISS go by, it’s probably equally clear right now.”

Vicky Simpson went to the Facebook page of Astronomy UK to say she saw them over Lincolnshire. She said, “It’s the first time I’ve seen them – even my 22- and 17-year-old girls were mesmerized.”

A 'train' with dozens of SpaceX Starlink satellites has been seen by amateur astronomers in the United Kingdom. You can just see the white dots in this photo by Vicky Simpson

A 'train' with dozens of SpaceX Starlink satellites has been seen by amateur astronomers in the United Kingdom. You can just see the white dots in this photo by Vicky Simpson

A ‘train’ with dozens of SpaceX Starlink satellites has been seen by amateur astronomers in the United Kingdom. You can just see the white dots in this photo by Vicky Simpson

Astronomers have called plans for a super fast global internet a “tragedy” because the thousands of new satellites that are needed will stand in the way of important scientific observations.

In January, SpaceX’s Starlink begins a journey to place 60 new satellites orbiting the Earth every few weeks – targeting around 1,500 by the end of 2020.

These ‘mega constellations’ of satellites are meant to blast the internet to the ground from a low orbit around the earth, even in remote areas.

A number of Britons went to social media to comment on the “clear train of lights,” including Vicky Simpson who said her daughters were mesmerized by the sight

Meanwhile, the British company OneWeb is planning to send a constellation of 3,200 tour boats between 650-2000 satellites and Amazon.

The launch of the first chain of 60 Starlink satellites in May already caused problems for astronomers, who said the bright objects surpassed the stars.

The development is seen as a new headache for researchers who already have to find solutions to deal with objects that hide their images of the deep space.

In addition, the orbiting satellites can also interfere with the operation of ground-based radio telescopes that experts use to see further phenomena.

However, according to astrophysicist Martin Barstow of the University of Leicester, some of the problems caused by the planned constellations can be addressed.

“The number of satellites sounds frightening, but the space is actually large – so if you place them all above each other, the density of these things won’t be very large,” he explained.

“And because the satellites have known positions, you can soften this. A satellite becomes a dot in an image and it may look like a passing burst of light – but you know it and can remove it from the image. “

“It takes effort and work for observatories to deal with it, but it is possible.”

In January, SpaceX's Starlink starts a journey to place 60 new satellites in orbit every few weeks - targeting around 1500 by the end of 2020. You can see the 'train' of satellites in the sky over Derbyshire in this image

In January, SpaceX's Starlink starts a journey to place 60 new satellites in orbit every few weeks - targeting around 1500 by the end of 2020. You can see the 'train' of satellites in the sky over Derbyshire in this image

In January, SpaceX’s Starlink starts a journey to place 60 new satellites in orbit every few weeks – targeting around 1500 by the end of 2020. You can see the ‘train’ of satellites in the sky over Derbyshire in this image

Astronomer Bill Keel of the University of Alabama told the AFP that, when observing the first Starlink satellite train, experts tried to extrapolate what effect artificial constellations with such constant brightness could have if they increased in number.

Fears developed, he said, “in 20 years or less, largely the night all over the world, the human eye would see more satellites than stars.”

The brightness of the Starlink satellites decreased as they ascended to their last orbit height of approximately 340 miles (550 kilometers) above the earth’s surface and stabilized their orientations.

However, this has not entirely dispelled the concerns of the scientific community, with fears about how the views of the night sky will be affected with SpaceX’s plans to increase the number of satellites from 60 to 12,000 over the next five years.

There are currently 2100 active satellites orbiting our planet, according to the Satellite Industry Association – and SpaceX is not the only company that wants to enter the growing internet market for space.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has offered conflicting messages on Twitter in response to the concern.

Elon Musk's Starlink project recently placed 60 satellites orbiting the Earth because they want to send high-speed Internet to the Earth's surface, but plans are to increase the artificial constellation to 12,000 satellites by 2025.

Elon Musk's Starlink project recently placed 60 satellites orbiting the Earth because they want to send high-speed Internet to the Earth's surface, but plans are to increase the artificial constellation to 12,000 satellites by 2025.

Elon Musk’s Starlink project recently placed 60 satellites orbiting the Earth because they want to send high-speed Internet to the Earth’s surface, but plans are to increase the artificial constellation to 12,000 satellites by 2025.

Despite the report that he had already taken steps to investigate ways to reduce the reflectivity of the Starlink satellites, Mr. Musk also said that “Starlink is not seen by anyone unless he looks very carefully.”

The satellite constellation “will have ~ 0% impact on advances in astronomy” and we must “move telescopes around the Earth anyway,” he added.

While SpaceX “cares a lot about science,” the work of “giving billions of economically disadvantaged people” fast internet access through the Starlink network is “all the greater,” he wrote.

In response to Mr. Musk’s comments, Professor Keel said he was pleased that the CEO of SpaceX had offered to investigate ways to reduce the reflectivity of future satellites, but wondered why the problem had not been addressed earlier.

When it comes to optical astronomers, their radio astronomy colleagues are “in despair,” Professor Keel added.

Radio astronomers rely on the electromagnetic waves emitted by celestial bodies to investigate cosmic phenomena – such as the black hole that was depicted in April 2019.

So-called ‘ancillary emissions’ generated by satellite operators can interfere with the observation bands that radio astronomers look forward to if they are not sufficiently restricted.

“There is every reason to call together with our radio astronomy colleagues for a” before “response,” said Professor Keel.

“It not only protects our professional interests, but protects, as far as possible, the night sky for humanity.”

WHAT IS STARLINK AND WHAT ARE THE GOALS?

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the first sixty of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites.

They are the first in a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to offer cheap broadband internet services from a low orbit around the earth.

The constellation, colloquially known as Starlink, and under development at the SpaceX facilities in Redmond, Washington.

The goal is to beam super fast internet into your house from space.

Although satellite internet has been around for a while, it is suffering from high latency and unreliable connections.

Starlink is different. SpaceX says that placing a “constellation” of satellites in a low orbit around the globe would provide fast, cable-like internet around the world.

The billionaire company wants to create the global system to generate more money.

Musk said earlier that the company could give three billion people who currently have no access to the Internet a cheap way to get online.

It can also help fund a future city on Mars.

Helping humanity to reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-established goals and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.

The company recently submitted plans to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites orbit above the Earth – three times as many currently in use.

“Once fully implemented, the SpaceX system passes almost all parts of the Earth’s surface and can therefore in principle provide ubiquitous global service,” the company said.

“Every point on the Earth’s surface will see a SpaceX satellite at all times.”

The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.

It is expected to take more than five years and $ 9.8 billion (£ 7.1 billion) in investment, although satellite internet has proven to be an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill to be higher.

Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, because it would reduce the dependence on the existing network of undersea fiber optic cables that traverse the planet.

In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide more people with internet connections.

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