Strange lights spotted over the skies of Tomahawk this past weekend

By Jed Buelow

Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor

Those out observing the full moon over the weekend might have seen something a bit more unexplainable as a strange train of bright lights streamed across the sky.

At around 8 p.m. Friday, the line showed up in the westerly sky near the currently very visible planet of Venus. The objects all came from the same point on the horizon and were visible as they headed in easterly direction until they disappeared after passing overhead. At least 15 of these lights were counted Friday night until the train ended leaving more than a few observers bewildered by what had just been seen.

After some research and confirmation the next day, it was revealed the out-of-this-world sighting was something that was part of a plan to expand broadband being undertaken by the private company SpaceX. The line of lights then reappeared Saturday night just north of where they were spotted the night prior.

Named Starlink, the satellite network seen above Tomahawk over the weekend is part of a system being developed that could reach as many as 30,000 satellites in the future that is aimed at bringing low-cost internet to remote locations around the planet. Each satellite in the string is approximately the size of a table and each weighs 500 roughly pounds. The satellites are part of a so-called megaconstellation that some fear could hamper astronomers and others from observing the midnight sky in years to come.

The first 60 Starlinkk satellites were launched in May of 2019 and reached their operational altitude of 340 miles (550 kilometers) — low enough to get pulled down to Earth by atmospheric drag in a few years so that they don’t become space junk once they die. SpaceX says the company will be able to start providing “minor” internet coverage once the train reaches 400 spacecraft and “moderate” coverage will be available once 800 satellites reach low-altitude orbit.

The bright lights aimed at improving internet to rural areas around the world haven’t come with a bit of controversy for SpaceX however, as those who regularly view the evening skies have stressed concern over the lights brightness and what they might do to future observations of the universe. The company has said that eventually the satellites will fall from the sky once no longer in use and plans have been developed to assure future satellites are not nearly as visible as the ones that passed over Tomahawk over the weekend.

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