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Observers confuse Starlink satellites with UFOs

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 14 abr 2020, 5:26 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 10 sept 2020, 6:49 ]
On the week of April 6 to 12, 2020, during the Coronavirus pandemic, social media users posted questions on the Internet about strange lights seen in the skies.
Screen of the free online app CelesTrak, which shows the passing of a Starlink satellites' "train" over Chilean territory on Monday, April 6, 2020.
On April 6, several people observed light “trains” from Santiago, in Central Chile, to Pucón, Talca and Temuco, in Southern Chile. The opinions were divided between the ones who thought it was a conventional phenomenon and those who believed it was the evidence of visitations from outer space.

“I see from my terrace some astronomical phenomenon or ufos, we have counted 27 lights,” wrote in Twitter the user Juan José Montoya San Martín.

Orbital objects

However, last week’s sightings were not related to the alleged visitation of beings from outer space, but to satellites of the Starlink constellation, which belong to tycoon Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Since this month’s beginning, the Committee for Studies on Anomalous Aerial Phenomena has received six reports from different places in the country that after being rigorously investigated, they turned out to be Starlink satellites.

The Starlink project is defined as a satellite “constellation”, whose goal is to offer a broadband, worldwide and low-cost Internet service through devices orbiting around Earth. The first 60 satellites’ were launched on May 24, 2019, and there’s have been other four launches since then. The sixth launch was scheduled for April 16, 2020.

Central zone

On Monday, April 6, 2020, a Starlink satellites “train” flew over the central zone between 18:20 and 19:30, local time, and it flew over Southern Chile afterwards in a northwest to southeast trajectory and they were responsible for that day’s sightings.

The next day, April 7, the phenomenon repeated itself at 19:00, local time, when a Starlink satellite train flew over the skies of the Ninth Region of La Araucanía, another one flew at 20:15, local time, over the skies of the Second Region of Tarapacá with a southwest-northeast trajectory and another one flew over Chiloé island, in the Tenth Region of Los Lagos, at 22:30, local time.

On April 8 it was the turn for the Eleventh Region of Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and also the Third Region of Atacama. And so, the phenomenon has repeated itself at different places virtually everyday because the Starlink satellites’ orbits traverse the continental skies everyday, including Chile’s and the skies of many other countries.

Other sightings

On Monday, April 13, after 22:00, local time, it was the turn for Southern Chile and on Tuesday, April 14, another Starlink satellite “train” will pass around 20:20, local time, over the Eleventh Region. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, April 15, around 19:30, local time, they will fly over the Tenth Region’s skies.

The phenomenon will repeat itself the next day over the Seventh Region and that will happen all week and virtually everyday.

So, the best thing to do is to know how to identify the Starlink satellites and learn to live with the lights train’s sightings. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to identify these satellites: they are several light points, close to each other and flying in the same orbit, in amounts that can vary from five to 60 satellites, and even more.

And if anyone sees only one object or point of light flying through the night sky? It’s very probable it’s an artificial satellite or some other object orbiting around the Earth, such as the International Space Station. And if you have any doubts, get in touch with CEFAA writing to the email cefaa@dgac.gob.cl

Today there exist free computer tools that allow to identify the satellites and orbital objects that pass overhead everyday. Some of those sites are Heavens Above (www.heavens-above.com) and CelesTrak (www.celestrak.com), which help the users to immediately identify the observed phenomena and even to prepare to watch future events.