SpaceX launched 60 new satellites into orbit today (Nov. 11). Weather permitting, you just might be able to see the spacecraft swarm soar overhead in your night sky tonight. Of course, you’ll need to know where to look.
The new Starlink satellites are the second batch to join SpaceX’s growing broadband internet constellation in orbit. They follow the May launch of 60 other satellites that surprised observers with how bright they appeared in the night sky. The night after their launch, those first Starlink satellites appeared as a brilliant string of pearls in the night sky.
“And what a SPECTACULAR view it was!” Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek, who captured video of the Starlink train in the sky, said at the time.
The new satellites launched today could offer a similar sight over the next few nights. But how to see them?
The key for any satellite tracker is to know when and where to look. Fortunately, there are several websites that offer forecasts to help amateur observers identify which direction to look and when for any area.
The tracking site Heavens-Above.com here already has a Starlink Launch 2 page ready. You can visit this Starlink page on the site to see the orbit of the new satellites. The direct link to the Starlink Launch 2 visible passes forecast is here, but don’t forget to update the “location” tag in the upper right of the page to get your specific visibility forecast.
The next site to try is N2Y0.com, which automatically picks up your coordinates from your browser to show when and where particular bright satellites (and yes, the International Space Station, too) will be visible.
Another useful site is CalSky here. CalSky asks you to enter the satellite you’re looking to spot (either by name or official number, if you know it). You can simply type “Starlink” and click “Go!” to find your personal forecast under “Sightings Opportunities” for each satellite.
This view of SpaceX’s first Starlink satellites in orbit was captured in May 2019 by Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek.
SpaceX launched the new Starlink satellites into a preliminary orbit of 174 miles (280 kilometers), but each of the 60 satellites is equipped with an ion engine to slowly raise its orbit to an altitude of about 280 miles (550 km).
Not everyone is as thrilled to see SpaceX’s Starlink fleet in the night sky as Langbroek was in May. Astronomers have complained that the bright satellites could endanger scientific observations of the night sky, especially since SpaceX plans to launch at least 12,000 Starlink satellites for its megaconstellation and is eyeing adding another 30,000 satellites in the future.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the company is looking into reducing the brightness of the satellites. Musk and other SpaceX representatives also stress that Starlink satellites are designed for a mission life of between one and 5 years.
At the end of a Starlink satellite’s mission, the satellite is designed to use its ion engine to deorbit itself and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere to avoid posing a space debris threat to other spacecraft, SpaceX has said.
This content was originally published here.