A fleet of SpaceX Starlink satellites will once again be visible in the skies above the UK tonight, offering sky gazers a chance to witness a string of up to 60 micro-satellites pass overhead.
SpaceX is planning to launch the eighth batch of Starlink satellites on Wednesday night, but it will be trains of satellites from previous launches that will be visible.
Weather permitting, they will be easy to spot with the naked eye, despite launching aboard the Falcon 9 rocket in April.
The best time to view the Starlink satellites from the UK will be early on Thursday morning at 12.38am. The satellites can also be tracked in real-time through the Find Starlink website.
Previous occasions when Starlink satellites have appeared have resulted in a spike of UFO reports due to their unusual formation.
Astronomers have compared their appearance to that of a “string of bright pearls” in the sky, though some have criticised them for potentially disrupting observations.
The Starlink project was described as a “tragedy” last year by Dave Clements, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London. He warned that the presence of vast satellite constellations could interrupt radio frequencies and disrupt images from optical telescopes, which may obscure sightings of Earth-bound asteroids.
SpaceX said it is working with space agencies to minimise any potential impact of the Starlink satellites, while also taking a number of its own measures to reduce their visibility.
Following April’s launch, CEO Elon Musk said he is working on a solution to hide the satellites from ground-based observers.
“We’re fixing it now,” he tweeted. “We are taking some key steps to reduce satellite brightness.. Should be much less noticeable during orbit raise by changing solar panel angle and all satellites get sunshades starting with launch nine.”
When questioned about the Starlink satellites’ potential interference at a recent conference, he said that concerns were being exaggerated.
“I am confident that we will not cause any impact whatsoever in astronomical discoveries, zero. That’s my prediction,” he said at the Satellite 2020 conference in January.
“We will take corrective action if it’s above zero. I’ve not met someone who can tell me where all of them are, so it can’t be that big of a deal.”