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101 Things – Satellites – Starlink

Satellite spotting is definitely a fun astronomical thing to do and because commercial launches are now happening on a weekly basis, spotting satellites is easy enough.  You may have already seen the International Space Station flying across the sky but have you seen any Starlink satellites?  The answer is possibly a yes – many stargazers have seen them cropping up in (ruining?) their astrophotography images, and more recently members of the general public have spotted them streaming across the sky as a train of dots moving silently through space.

There are now several websites that allow you to predict and plot Starlink passes, and this is our current favourite. It’s really simple to use and also includes information and images which are updated regularly.  You can check predicted Starlink passes using this website – just pop your location in by clicking on the map.

The world is currently undecided about Starlink, and there doesn’t seem to be any regulations controlling or restricting these launches. On the one hand it seems like a fantastic opportunity for LMICs to access the internet in locations around the world where typically this has been non-existent or patchy.  The idea is that, at the very least, this will improve Emergency Services communication abilities and allow governments and infrastructure workers to be completely joined up.  No doubt the benefits to children around the world in terms of broadening knowledge and understanding will be second to none.  Criticisms of StarLink are wide and varied. Professional, amateur astronomers, notably deep sky researchers and radio astronomers are not happy and many people have called this a vanity project on the part of Elon Musk.  There have even been mutterings about a “White Saviour” colonial attitude that goes along with spending millions of dollars launching satellites into the sky on a fortnightly basis, instead of working with LMICs on the ground to develop and create their infrastructure, which they own and control directly.

Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay so you may as well have a go at spotting them and ticking them off your list of “101 things to see in the sky before you die.”  The table below shows the next few days of visible passes in the North East of England.