No, these aren’t UFOs over Eagle County – just a constellation of SpaceX Starlink satellites

Bryan White, a local astronomer, captured the “incredible sight” of the first Starlink satellites.
Bryan White / Daily Special

Whether or not we are alone in the universe has been one of mankind’s longest and most confusing scientific dilemmas. For many residents of Eagle County, with sightings over the past year of a string of lights crossing the sky, the answer seems to be an obvious yes.

At least at the beginning.

A quick Google search for the phenomenon – or a post Eagle County classifieds on Facebook Group – quickly reveals that the train of lights is not other life forms, but a chain of Starlink satellites.

“I first saw them around this time two summers ago,” said Scott Dunn, community programs coordinator at the Walking Mountains Science Center. “I was caught off guard at first; I think that was the first year they launched, so we really hadn’t heard much from them. We were camping on Muddy Pass and were a little puzzled for the evening, then once we got cell service we quickly figured out what it was.

Starlink is a SpaceX project to bring high-speed Internet access to remote and rural areas of Earth. The project aims to eventually create a network of 12,000 satellites sent into low orbit around the earth.

Trying to identify them, Dunn said to look for a series of lights. “It’s a string of lights all moving on the same path at the same speed and the distance between them doesn’t change, it’s the most important thing to look for,” he said. “It’s usually going to be more than five that you’ll see visible.”

And that’s quite the view. Vail Daily deputy editor-in-chief Sean Naylor said he “almost fell off my skateboard looking at the sky” and was attempting to take a picture.

Even the most seasoned astronomers, including Bryan White, a Local astronomer and starry sky watcher based in Glenwood Springs – will refer to the sight of satellites in the sky as “incredible”.

“Having observed the night sky for over 60 years and seen the first observable satellite, I had never seen anything like it before,” White said.

The initial launch of the Starlink satellites, however, was troubling to many global astronomers. Due to the small orbit, design and size of the satellites, they are more visible to the naked eye, but also so bright that astronomers fear that the full launch of these satellites will add light pollution and does not affect scientific observation.

Comet Neowise, pictured with two Starlink satellites crossing the image.
Bryan White / Daily Special

“Last summer we were fortunate to have a large comet called Comet Neowise. I took a week off at its peak and took over 400 3D images of this wonderful comet. However, most of the images had Starlink satellites passing through this field of view. And by that time, they had only thrown less than 1,000 of the 40,000 in total, ”White said.

He added that as more countries and companies launch satellites, “It will totally destroy the ability to see the night sky with the naked eye and with telescopes.”

In April 2020, SpaceX recognized this problem and said he is working on correcting the brightness in future launches.

Once you know what you’re looking for – a straight constellation of five or more lights – it’s easy to identify the satellites. However, figuring out what else might be in the night sky is a whole different thing.

Are we alone?

A photo of Bryan White’s dark sky viewing site on the Independence Pass. White hosts astronomy viewing parties through his company, Star Party, LLC.
Bryan White / Daily Special

Even though the Starlink satellite track doesn’t point to another life, there’s a reason we’re so quick to draw conclusions.

“Space is a big place. There is a lot to learn from space and there is still a lot to understand; things we just can’t see with the naked eye and a lot more information that needs to go into it, ”Dunn said.

Not only have humans been puzzled and questioned the existence of aliens for a long time – as evidenced by pop culture’s obsession with films like “ET” and “Star Wars” which have popularity across generations – but the recent media and government attention on it has gained new life.

In August 2020, the US Department of Defense relaunched its Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Working Group. According to press release announcing its launch, the Ministry of Defense created the working group to “improve its understanding and better understand the nature and origins of [Unidentified Aerial Phenomena]. “

The working group has started to detect, analyze and catalog all aerial phenomena.

However, inexplicable sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena did not begin last summer. While various sightings are reported earlier, the modern history of UFOs or unidentified flying objects can be traced back to 1947, when a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine circular objects moving at supersonic speeds near Mount Rainier. Later that summer, a Roswell, New Mexico newspaper reported the crash of a crashed flying saucer, making the site an attraction for future alien theories. Since then, many have reported similar sightings or unusual experiences.

“Once you become an ‘experimenter’ (what the government calls people who have been exposed to the ‘phenomenon’) your life will change,” White said.

During his six decades of experience as an observer astronomer, White also became an experimenter.

“Since I ‘looked up’ for so long, I have become very familiar with the night sky. Until a few years ago, I could explain my “unusual” sightings, White said. “However, in 2017, I started to see some very strange objects that couldn’t be explained with conventional physics. I believe that most, if not all, of the unusual objects that I observed are what we see. calls for “interdemensal entities”.

These entities, according to White, are identifiable as “balls of intense light” or orbs rather than as physical objects.

The answers to these questions about other lives and phenomena are not straightforward, but the possibilities are certainly enticing to explore.

“Regarding what might be out there; there is a reality beyond what we can imagine. There are habitable planets that are billions of years older than Earth. Think about how far we have come in 100 years; now increase that by a billion years, ”White said. “What will be the most amazing aspect of this phenomenon is the concept of additional dimensions, which are invisible to our senses.”

About Hannah Schaeffer

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