Elon Musk's Starlink satellites will be visible in the UK this weekend - here’s how to spot them

Friday, 15th May 2020, 11:13 am
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 11:13 am
The satellites appear in a line crossing the night sky and their current orbital position has made them easier to spot (Photo: Shutterstock)
The satellites appear in a line crossing the night sky and their current orbital position has made them easier to spot (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you have been gazing out of your window at night, or taking an evening stroll, you may have spotted some streaks of bright light lighting up the sky over the last few weeks.

While the dazzling cluster of specs may have sparked questions over alien life, the strange UFO-like glimmers are in fact satellites from Elon Musk’s Starlink fleet.

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If you haven’t managed to spot them yet, there will be a chance to see them flash across the night sky again over the next few days.

What is Starlink?

Starlink is a satellite constellation that is being constructed by American company SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk.

The firm sends satellites up into the Earth’s orbit in batches of 60, with the most recent launch taking place in mid-March.

Another batch launched on 22 April.

So far, the firm has deployed more than 300 satellites into space and is working towards a network of 12,000, with the aim of improving global internet coverage.

The satellites appear in a line crossing the night sky and their current orbital position has made them easier to spot in the past few days.

The recently launched satellites have been seen by Brits in Derbyshire, Manchester, London, Leeds, and across Europe.

When can I spot them?

If you haven’t yet caught a glimpse of the satellites, there will be several more opportunities to see them over the coming days.

These are the timings you can spot them:

Friday 15 May - 9.35pm. Starlink-3 will be visible over the UK for five minutes, travelling from west to southeast.

At 11.11pm, Starlink-3 will be visible over the UK for three minutes, travelling from west to southwest.

Saturday 16 May - 10.11pm. Starlink-3 will be visible over the UK for four minutes, travelling from west to south.

Monday 18 May - 9.47pm. Starlink-3 will be visible over the UK for three minutes, travelling from west to south.

The satellites will appear as ‘trains’ of bright lights and can be spotted in the sky without binoculars or a telescope.

You will need a clear sky and as little light around you as possible in order to see them, so it is best to avoid looking at your phone screen too much, and turn off any outdoor lighting.

How do I track their location?

A number of stargazing apps and websites enable people to track the current locations of the satellites.

A popular site is Findstarlink.com, where users can see the timings of when and where Starlink is likely to be visible next.

Simply visit the website and enter your location to find the time when the satellites will be visible in your area.

Alternatively, you can use the free Night Sky app from the Apple store, which helps users find a wealth of celestial wonders, or Satellite Tracker, which is also compatible on Android phones.

Why are they so visible?

Many of the satellites that were sent up in March appear very bright in the sky, but it is their current orbital position that has made them much easier to spot over the past few days.

Their close proximity to Earth and their large size, complete with wide flat panels which reflect light, make them appear much brighter in the sky.

However, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said the company was “fixing” the brightness of the satellites to make them less visible, stating it was due to the angle of the satellites’ solar panels.

The company is working on a “sunshade” that will help to reduce reflection of the satellites in future launches, making them less easy to spot from Earth.