Starlink is a SpaceX company that provides high-speed satellite internet coverage and dish kits to remote regions with limited access to broadband internet. By early 2022, over 2,000 Starlink broadband internet satellites have been launched, increasing chances for visibility. At times, casual observers can see a train of recently launched Starlink satellites in the night sky before they have spread out in their orbital positions. In the U.S., the recently launched trains of Starlink satellites have been mistaken for UFOs sometimes.
While it’s common to see satellites in the night sky, the volume of Starlink low-orbit satellites differs significantly from other satellite internet providers like Viasat. Differences between the two include:
Though casual night sky observers in North America enjoy the visibility of Starlink satellites, scientists registered concern. Starlink has approval to launch over 12,000 satellites. The company has also requested approval to launch another 30,000 of its mass-produced satellites.
Starlink satellites leave streaks across astronomy images. One observational telescope team reported that one-fifth of its images include Starlink satellites, just with the current 1,500 operational Starlink satellites. Though one research paper noted that satellites in images have very little effect on what is observed, some astronomers are concerned about the impact of the rapidly increasing number of satellites on astrophotography in the coming years.
In conversation with the American Astronomical Society, Starlink has taken steps to reduce the brightness of its satellites. These include software updates and attaching deployable sun visors to its subsequent satellites. It also provides orbital information on space-track.org. However, Starlink satellites are still registering slightly brighter than agreed-upon brightness measurements from the scientific community.
In addition to space-track.org, other websites also provide tracking information for Starlink satellites for night sky watchers in the U.S. These include:
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