A number of residents in the Ozarks reported seeing a string of bright lights in the sky on Thursday night, posting photos of a possible UFO sighting. However, the real explanation is much less extraterrestrial –– they're actually a Starlink satellite constellation. SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk, launched the satellites from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, bringing the internet to those rural areas.
The reason why people have such a great view of them is that Starlink satellites roam much closer to earth than other kinds. But, the nation is sure to see more of them. Ky3.com reports there are over 1,300 Starlink Satellites in orbit right now, but there are plans to send off a total of 2,814 satellites. Soon enough, the satellites will spread out and no longer form a line. “They are part of a satellite constellation,” explained Dr. Sarah Morrison, a Missouri State University Assistant Professor of Astronomy. “They share a very similar orbit so when you’re looking in the night sky at the right time they will appear as a string of lights.”
The best time to view the lights is typically between 9-10 p.m., just after sunset, but you can also track them online. “They don’t produce their own light, they just reflect sunlight so you have to be looking when the sunlight is still able to hit them,” added Dr. Greg Ojakangas, an Associate Professor of Physics at Drury University. “Later in the evening at their altitudes they’re completely in the dark.”
Dr. Ojakangas has worked with NASA studying space debris for more than 20 years and warns that while they aren't as dangerous as a fleet of unidentified flying objects, there may still be a reason for worry. “Among other environmental problems we are entering a time in history when the likelihood of collisions in space are greatly increasing,” Ojakangas added. “In the last Space X launch, the crew in the capsule was told to put their spacesuits on because as they were climbing out of the gravity of the earth there was a probability that they were going to hit something. There’s a lot of stuff up there, something like 26,000 large objects bigger than a cellphone as well as hundreds of thousands smaller ones, and they’re all moving very fast.”