What is Starlink?
The following is a brief explanatory summary for those who have never heard of Starlink. Starlink is a huge satellite constellation that aims to provide high-speed Internet services (Internet via satellite) to even the most remote areas of the Earth. The program was developed and implemented by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company starting in 2015.
The satellites are launched into orbit in groups. To date, 13 groups have been deployed in space and now 775 solar-powered satellites are orbiting the Earth. Eventually, SpaceX plans to build a massive constellation consisting of 12,000 satellites, with a possible later extension of the number to 42,000.
You can read the history of previous Starlink missions in our article.
The potential problems arising from the Starlink satellites have been the subject of debate. Around 5,000 satellites already circulate in Earth’s orbit. If SpaceX’s plan is successful, our skies will be teeming with artificial bodies that reflect light.
This can hinder the work of astronomers, whose images of the celestial vault will be contaminated by the reflection of the satellites. Another problem is the possibility that, given the large number, these objects could collide with each other and create space junk.
In response to the first question, SpaceX has already tested two satellite prototypes with burnished surfaces: DarkSat and VisorSat. Now, starting with the Starlink-8 mission, all satellites are equipped with anti-reflective surfaces. Regarding the second problem, Elon Musk reported that the satellites are designed to deorbit within five years if they fail.
How to locate Starlink satellites in the sky?
The Starlink satellites offer a spectacular view: they look like a train of bright points that plows through the night sky. You can easily see them with the naked eye if you know where and when to look.Satellite TrackerTo search for Starlink satellites we recommend using the Satellite Tracker app:
After launching the app, tap the satellite icon in the top right corner of the screen, then tap “All”.Locate the “SpaceX’s Starlink” section and choose the mission you are interested in (the number after the letter “L” corresponds to the launch number).
Tap the “Track” button next to one or more satellites to add them to the tracking list. The satellites noted in this list are sorted by their appearance in the sky.Touch one of the satellites you are interested in to select it and return to the main screen.
At the top of the main screen, the “Next Pass” timer reveals the time remaining until the next flight of the selected satellite over your position. Tap the down arrow to open the list of future steps visible from your location. Use this list to plan your observation time. To view the list of all steps, tap “All steps”.
The main screen of the app has three scrolling modes by tapping the round icons at the bottom:Globe view: allows you to see the trajectory of a satellite around the 3D model of the Earth and on the earth map;
Satellite view: shows a 3D model of the satellite in its current position above the Earth;
Sky View – allows you to see where the satellite is in the sky by following the arrow pointer.Star Walk 2Another way to locate the Starlink satellite train in the sky above you is to use the Star Walk 2 app.
Launch the application, tap the magnifying glass icon and press the satellite icon in the lower right corner of the screen.At the top of the “Main Satellites” list you will find the latest Starlinks launched.
Scroll down to the “SpaceX Starlink” section and choose the mission you want to track.
Touch the satellite of your interest and Star Walk 2 will provide you with precise information on its position and trajectory.
Other tools to monitor StarlinksThere are also several websites that can help you observe Starlink satellites.On the Heavens-Above website you can consult the forecasts of Starlink passages in the special section dedicated to these satellites. Select the mission you are interested in, set the date and get information on the next satellite passage.
Alternatively, you can search for Starlink satellites in the “Satellite Database” section.
On N2YO.com you can type the name of a Starlink satellite in the search field: the instrument will show you its position and trajectory. The site will also help you monitor the satellites you are interested in, providing you with 10-day forecasts and comprehensive information about them.