May 29, 2019: SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are flaring, creating flashes of light in the night sky that can rival the brightest stars. Veteran observer Tristan Cools of Bruges, Belgium, reports: “Yesterday evening almost all the objects from the Starlink launch between the leading and trailing satellites were flaring, some very brightly around magnitude 0.”
Flat surfaces on the bottom of the Starlink satellites are reflecting sunlight down to Earth.
Marco Langbroek of the Netherlands, famous for recording the first video of the Starlink train, saw last night’s flares, too.
“The flaring behaviour was interesting,” he says. “There was a series of brief naked eye flares, one after the other. I did not count but I think I saw at least 15 or so do this within a time span of 1 to 2 minutes. The flares were magnitude +1.5 to +2”–that is, only a little dimmer than 1st magnitude stars.
SpaceX launched 60 satellites on May 23rd–the first installment of a Starlink “mega-constellation” that could number 12,000 by the time the project is complete. Starlink aims to surround Earth with satellites and provide broadband internet to every corner of the globe. Astronomers won’t be happy, however, until SpaceX finds a way to dim these flares. A globe-circling swarm of flashing satellites could wreak havoc with the type of deep-sky observations crucial to modern research.
Ready to see the Starlink satellites with your own eyes? Visit Heavens-Above.com and click on “Starlink (leader)” for local flyby predictions. A dynamic display of the satellites’ current location is also available.
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