Mysterious lights in the sky have Greeks wondering if they were UFOs
If you’ve looked up at the night sky recently, you might have been surprised to see a train of bright lights moving across from one side to the other. What’s going on?
The lights appear in groups of up to 60 in a long line. There have been numerous reports from places like the Lebanon Turkey Bulgaria and of course Greece of people seeing them, with explanations ranging from UFOs to an alien invasion. Of course.
But fear not. These lights are actually satellites, launched into space by the U.S. company SpaceX, run by South African entrepreneur Elon Musk who was only in Greece last week on the party island of Mykonos.
The satellites are part of a new internet providing technology called Starlink. This is a project by SpaceX to launch thousands of satellites into orbit, and beam the internet to Earth from space. SpaceX hopes to use this to fund missions to Mars.
The satellites are launched in batches of 60, with SpaceX aiming to launch roughly two batches very month – although they haven’t quite achieved that frequency yet.
Each time the satellites are launched, on the company’s own reusable Falcon 9 rockets, they are placed into orbit about 290 kilometers above the surface of Earth.
The satellites then use their onboard ion engines to raise their altitude up to their operational orbits of between 340 and 550 kilometers. This can take several months to do.
During these months, the satellites can appear very visible in the night sky when they fly over your location because of their reflective surfaces.
After dusk and before dawn, when the Sun has dipped just below the horizon, the satellites reflect the Sun’s light back onto the ground, making them shine quite brightly.
As they pass overhead, they appear like a bright train of lights as the satellites follow one after the other in orbit.