Astronomy fans will have three opportunities to spot a train of Starlink satellites this week as they once again pass over the UK.
The daisy-chained satellites launched by US space company SpaceX have become a popular target for skywatchers as they glide across the night.
Dreamed up by Elon Musk, the Starlink constellation will eventually consist of thousands of satellites beaming down a low-cost broadband internet signal to Earth.
Eventually, SpaceX plans to have 12,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. Right now, there are 422 up there moving around the planet.
You’ll be able to see them on May 14, May 15 and May 16 this week.
The Starlink satellites are fast moving, so you should be able to spot them but you’ll nevertheless need to let your eyes adjust to the dark to be able to pick them out.
When to see Starlink satellites above the UK this week
Everyone in the UK should be able to see the satellites this week although things like weather and location may alter how visible they are.
The timings for this week’s Starlink passovers are as follows:
- 14 May 2020 – 10:36 pm
- 15 May 2020 – 9:35 pm
- 16 May 2020 – 10:11 pm
If you’re struggling to follow them, you can use findstarlink.com on your mobile phone which provides a live map of the exact position of the satellites.
You can add in your location to get timings for each pass over as well as a guide on how bright they’re likely to be.
What is Starlink?
Launched in batches of 60, each Starlink satellite houses powerful antennas to receive an internet signal and beam it around the planet and back down to receivers on Earth.
‘With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,’ SpaceX writes on its website.
At the moment Starlink satellites are in a parked orbit around Earth as SpaceX continues to add more to the constellation.
When to see the ISS in the night sky this week
As well as the Starlink satellites, you’ll also be able to see the International Space Station (ISS) in the night sky as well.
Here are the exact times to watch out for the ISS in the night sky:
- Thursday May 14 – 00:30 AM
- Thursday May 14 – 2:03 AM
- Thursday May 14 – 3:39 AM
- Thursday May 14 – 11:43 PM
- Friday May 15 – 1:16 AM
- Friday May 15 – 2:51 AM
- Friday May 15 – 4:28 AM
- Friday May 15 – 10:50 PM
The space station shouldn’t be too tricky to spot (if you’re happy to get up at those times) as it’s quite bright in the sky.
‘Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster!’ explains Nasa.
You can check on exact times and locations for the ISS on Nasa’s Spot the Station website.
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