People looking up in the night sky, such as looking up at Venus, have seen a group of lights, flying in a perfectly straight line, as if in formation, and are wondering “What the heck are those things??”. Some are freaking out a bit, wondering if it’s the alien invasion, while others are imagining its drones, or the Space Force on maneuvers, or somehow a string of satellites. Here’s what those lights are.
In January 2015, SpaceX, a private spaceflight company founded and
owned by South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk, announced that it was intending to launch 4,000 low-orbit satellites.
Hey, wait a minute! Did you just talk of a whopping 4,000 satellites launched into space by a single company? Yes, you heard us right. Musk’s SpaceX has an ambitious plan to have thousands of spacecrafts circling the Earth.
Why would anyone do that? Well, Musk is not trying to outdo NASA.
Rather his almost bizarre plan is aimed at beaming low-cost internet via the series of satellites in the hopes of getting a share of the $1 trillion global internet connectivity via his satellite network, known as Starlink while giving internet access to even the remotest places in the world.
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While most people thought Musk was bluffing, SpaceX filed documents with international space regulators to launch the satellites. Currently, the U.S Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given SpaceX the go-ahead to launch 12,000 satellites. The number could grow to 30,000 with time.
During a speech in Seattle when he launched the project, Musk said: “We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space”.
And do not worry. You were not the only one caught off guard by a
series of mysterious moving lights in the night sky. Immediately after they were launched, astronomers and skywatchers were amazed at the sight of a brightly lit string of pearls racing in the sky as the dozens of 500-lb (225 kg) satellites raced, disbanded and started climbing to their operational altitude of 340 miles (550 kilometers) above the Earth. Even at that altitude, individual crafts were still visible to the naked eye, especially at night. Speaking about the phenomenon, a former astronomy professor at the University of Michigan said: “What surprised everyone was how bright their satellites are”.
While the bright string of pearls has tongues wagging and curious
skywatchers starry-eyed, astronomers are not sitting tight and
enjoying the show. The general feeling among them is that placing about 2,000 crafts in space is likely to hinder the ability of Earth-based scopes to function optimally. In addition, dark sky
advocates are worried that the night sky, an international resource will be polluted by the presence of thousands of unnatural objects zipping through space.
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