Starlink satellite train
After a successful Falcon-9 rocket launch, 60 new SpaceX Starlink satellites made it to orbit this morning. You can watch a replay here by clicking the Starlink mission link. Their initial altitude is set at 180 miles (290 km), but each satellite has krypton thrusters that will propel it to an operational altitude of 342 miles (550 km) over the week or so. Despite increasing concerns from astronomers about the wholesale pollution of the night sky from thousands of new satellites, it’s nonetheless fascinating to watch a Starlink satellite train. Because they’re all strung out in a line, once you see the first one, simply keep watching and all the others will follow. Before you know it dozens will have passed.
In the first day or two after launch, the satellites are bunched up like the video shows, but they gradually spread apart. I checked the prospects of seeing the new batch and unfortunately they won’t be visible over much of the U.S. until Feb. 4-6 at dawn. Cities in southern latitudes are favored at the moment with some great flybys in the nights ahead.
Go to Heavens Above and click on the Starlink 4th launch placeholder link on the left side of the page to check passes for your location. Clicking any of the dates shown will open up a map with the satellite’s path plotted across the sky through the familiar constellations. If you haven’t yet logged in, do so or just pick your location under the bolded Configuration header.
You can still view the Starlinks sent up during the earlier January launch by clicking the Starlink – all objects from 3rd launch link. For instance, tonight there will be a flyover for Minneapolis, Minn. between 6 and 7 p.m. local time. I recommend you choose pass dates when the brightness (magnitude) of the objects is “3” “2.” Anything fainter — magnitude 4,5, and 6 — and you’ll probably need binoculars. Also, remember that the viewing times shown are on the “24-hour” clock, so 5:05 is 5:05 a.m., but 18:05 is 6:05 p.m.
If the Starlink orbital information is updated in the next day or two, I will also update this blog with that information. Check back.