PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – No, it’s not an alien invasion and it’s not something that’s burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. The line of lights people in the Pacific Northwest have seen flying across the night sky recently are the Starlink satellites.
The satellites were developed by the private space flight company SpaceX and are used to provide low-cost internet to remote locations.
On Friday, the company launched another batch of 53 Starlink 4-27 internet satellites from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The satellites were visible in the night sky in the Pacific Northwest Friday and Saturday and SpaceX says they’ll be clearly visible again at 9:49 p.m. PDT on Sunday, Aug. 21. They should be visible for about 4 minutes. They’ll appear above the western horizon.
“The satellites, which are now orbiting at approximately 273 miles above the Earth, are putting on a show for observers as they move across the night sky. For about 6 minutes each, the 60 satellites appear as a ‘moving train’ of moderately faint magnitude points of light between +2 to +4, near the brightness of the stars in Ursa Minor,” Jim Todd, director of space science education at OMSI wrote in an email.
He said the general motion of the satellites varies, but they appear to be moving from west to east, about 20 to 30 degrees above the horizon.
For the best chance to see them, Todd suggests people position themselves in the darkest location they can, far from any bright lights that could hinder the view.
“Scanning the sky with binoculars will certainly help. A lot depends on just how the angle of reflected sunlight strikes the satellites in the hours just after sunset or before sunrise,” Todd said.
After their initial launch, the satellites appear to be stretched out in a straight line. But according to SpaceX, as the satellites revolve around the earth at 90-minute intervals, they should appear less “bunched” together and may actually get fainter as they are slowly raised to their operational orbits of 342 miles above earth.
SpaceX has launched a total of 3,108 Starlink satellites into space. This includes prototype and test units no longer in service.