12:23 GMT28 May 2020
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    Excited social media users in Colorado were posting sightings of a succession of bright lights in the skies over Colorado on 6 March, speculating as to the probable cause of the mysterious phenomenon.

    A succession of intriguing bright lights hovering in the night sky this week have been revealed to be satellites from Elon Musk’s Starlink project.

    ​Earlier, responses had ranged from “kinda freaky” to “cool”, as social media users flooded the internet on 6 March and over the weekend to post their sightings of the train of lights making their way across the skies over Colorado.
    Many users shared their ideas as to what the lights might be.

    ​Earlier, a video of the trail of lights streaming across the skies as they followed their low-earth orbits was taken in New Zealand on 23 February, shortly after the last satellite launch.


    Some social media users enthusiastically commented on the “cool” sighting.

    Some netizens, however, found the sight “scary”.

    ​Marring the Skies

    While netizens shared their impressions of the startling sight, detractors like Travis Longcore, an associate adjunct professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, snarkily condemned Elon Musk’s satellite project as a “crime against humanity”.

    ​Another astronomer tweeted that the sight was “depressing”.

    The Starlink project has drawn criticism for the effects that it will have on observations of the night's sky, as the network of hundreds of satellites reflects light from the sun and can corrupt between 30 to 40 per cent of astronomical images.

    According to a recent study from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), satellite mega-constellations such as Starlink will “severely” affect between 30 and 50 per cent of observations taken by the Rubin Observatory, currently being built in Chile.

    The National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico
    The National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico

    The orbiting satellites can also interfere with the workings of ground-based radio telescopes used by experts.

    In response to the criticism, Elon Musk tweeted in May 2019 that the amount of light that the later satellites have been sending down toward the earth would be studied and measures to mitigate the effects taken.

    ​SpaceX has been working with the American Astronomical Society for the past six months to come up with a solution to the problems the satellite constellation has created.

    A spokesperson for the American Astronomical Association said they wanted to find a way to work with SpaceX without “giving up the night sky”.

    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
    “The goal of Starlink is to provide worldwide internet service, an aspiration we do not want to impede, but this requires one to two orders of magnitude more low Earth orbiting satellites (LEOs) than currently exist,” wrote the American Astronomical Society in an early December update of its joint efforts with Tesla.

    The Society added:

    "Despite all the complexities of how our community makes O/IR observations, we are working to see if we can develop a brightness level for them to aim at, and we are conducting a survey of research observatories to gather this information."

    Ambitious Project

    The ambitious Starlink project was launched by Elon Musk to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit, especially in areas where connections are harder to get, or more expensive.

    A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, ready for launch, sits on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
    © AP Photo / Terry Renna
    A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, ready for launch, sits on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

    Lifted up on SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket, the first 60 satellites were launched on 24 May 2019, and with the fifth batch successfully launched in February, the company now has 300 of the satellites over the Earth.

    SpaceX has plans to have thousands more launched over the next few years, with the ambitious target of 1,500 satellites in low-orbit by the end of 2020.

    The company will have a total of 42,000 satellites if its proposal is approved.

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    satellites, satellite, Satellite, Starlink, Elon Musk, Elon Musk
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