Did you spot any strange lights in the Manitoba skies over the weekend?
According to the manager of the planetarium at the Manitoba Museum, don’t worry — they weren’t UFOs, but new satellites sent into space by American aerospace company SpaceX.
“One of the benefits of the social isolation going on right now is that I’ve been spending more time out under the stars by myself,” Scott Young told 680 CJOB.
“Both nights, I saw these things come out of the west and move overhead. Sometimes you could only see one, and sometimes you could see two or three or four of them.
“My biggest count was eight of them above the horizon at a given time. They were all over the place.”
Young said the objects were Starlink satellites launched by Elon Musk’s space company — part of a plan to eventually launch 12,000 of them into orbit over the Earth and provide satellite Internet to distant corners of the globe.
Young said there are over 300 of the satellites currently in orbit, with many more to come.
“They go up in chunks of 60 and all of the 60 in a given launch, they’re all in the same orbit. So that means when we see them go over, they all appear to be in a line,” he said.
“The problem is … 12,000 of them, that’s three times more than the number of stars the average person can see on a given night out in the middle of nowhere.
“They’re unusual sightings now, but pretty soon it’ll be the new normal… all you’ll see are these satellites.”
Young said if all 12,000 are launched, it could create confusion for stargazers, as each of the suitcase-sized satellites is bigger than the stars of the big dipper and other well-known constellations.
“Imagine trying to find constellations at night. Imagine if only a quarter of the dots you’re looking at are actually stars,” he said.
“You don’t want to stifle creativity and obviously I’m a huge fan of bringing Internet to areas that don’t have it, … so I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer on that idea.
“But you can also do that with a wire on the ground as opposed to having these satellites up there.”
Although the museum — including the planetarium — remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Young said the Museum At Home series online will include lots of information for Manitobans who are looking to the skies during their self-isolation.
“If you’re looking to do some stargazing, now’s a really good time,” Young said.