What are Starlink satellites and why are they so bright? Elon Musk vows to reduce glare with future models
HUNDREDS of Starlink satellites are now orbiting Earth, but what are they – and why are they so bright?
We explain what Elon Musk's grand plan for Starlink is, and why you can see the satellites so clearly with the naked eye.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a project that aims to "deploy the world's most advanced broadband internet system".
This involves putting a "mega constellation" of more than 40,000 satellites into orbit.
"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," the official website explains.
It's run by SpaceX, a Californian rocket firm bankrolled by tech billionaire Elon Musk.
Musk hopes that the Starlink constellation will one day beam super-fast, cheap Wi-Fi to people across the planet.
What are Starlink satellites?
More than 420 satellites have been launched so far, with the network eventually set to reach 12,000, rising to as many as 42,000 in the future.
SpaceX sends its satellites up in batches of 60 at a time. Each group is launched atop an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket built and operated by SpaceX.
How the probes will affect the night sky is causing concern as they sit in a low orbit, so appear brighter than stars and planets.
The satellites typically orbit around 340 miles above Earth.
Each satellite weighs around 260kg, and features a flat-panel design that makes the probes easily stackable aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
Why are Starlink satellites so bright?
When you spot a Starlink satellite in the sky, you'll probably be surprised to find that they look really bright.
In fact, they can seem like fast-moving stars – which sounds odd given that they don't produce their own light.
What you're actually seeing is light being reflected off the solar panels of Starlink satellites.
They're also very close to Earth in the grand scheme of things, so it's no surprise we can see them with the naked eye.
According to Musk, the shine is particularly noticeable when the satellites are rising to orbit altitude, due to the angle of the panels.
And future Starlink satellites are expected to have "sunshades" starting from next month.
In other news, Nasa astronauts will launch into space from US soil next month for the first time in nearly a decade.
An amazing SpaceX video recently revealed how the company will one day fire astronauts to the ISS.
And SpaceX apparently wants the US Army to use the 18,000 mile-an-hour spacecraft to transport troops & supplies across the planet in "minutes".
What do you make of Elon Musk's Starlink project? Let us know in the comments!
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