12:20 GMT18 May 2021
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    “What is this trail of eerily silent “lights”? …Can someone throw some... light on the matter?” – these were some of the comments posted by astounded witnesses to a bizarre display in the night skies recently.

    A spooky succession of perfectly aligned lights spotted in the skies above northern Italy on 23 December generated a frenzy of responses on the internet as people shared their observations in the belief that the sighting was of an extraterrestrial nature.

    Those who saw the satellites took to social media to guess what was beaming across the night sky.

    ​However, it has since been confirmed that the lights were part of Elon Musk’s second group of Starlink satellites launched into orbit last November as part of his huge internet project.

    Experts from the Italian astronomical observatory explained:

    "It is the Starlink satellites that Elon Musk launched. You can sleep peacefully.”

    ​Many netizens were disappointed with the mundane explanation for the creepy sighting:

    ​Netizens also shared their opinions of the ambitious Starlink project:

    ​Starlink is a satellite constellation being constructed by American company SpaceX to provide satellite Internet access.

    ​In November SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    SpaceX Starlink Mission
    © CC0
    SpaceX Starlink Mission

    The stated aim of SpaceX's Starlink project is to create a vast network of satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.

    Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported earlier in October that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.

    As CEO Elon Musk is yet another step closer to his ambitious goal, an ever stronger chorus of experts have been expressing concerns that in the foreseeable future the sky above us will grow crowded with satellites.

    Falcon 9 with 60 Starlink Satellites lifts off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
    Falcon 9 with 60 Starlink Satellites lifts off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

    Alex Parker, a planetary astronomer and the director of the Project for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (ESPRESSO), has been raising the alarm regarding the brightness of Starlink satellites in particular.

    “I know people are excited about those images of the train of SpaceX Starlink satellites, but it gives me pause,” he wrote on Twitter in May.

    ​While striving to allay concerns, Elon Musk has been rather dismissive of the complaints.

    “There are already 4900 satellites in orbit, which people notice [about] zero percent of the time... Starlink won’t be seen by anyone unless they're looking very carefully & will have [about] zero percent impact on advancements in astronomy,” he tweeted.




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