Did You See the “UFO” in the Skies Over Arizona?
Since Cochise County hosted their very first UFO Conference this week, I have had extra-terrestrials on my mind a little more than usual. As the incredible full moon was rising over the Mule Mountains last night, I decided to capture some photos of it.
The moon. Not the Mules.
Yeah, blurry moon photos aren't really all that appealing, so I pivoted toward the western sky. The last whisp of the sunset was still illuminating the Huachuca Mountains and the stars were just beginning to show their faces.
My cell phone takes pretty good lowlight photos, so I started clicking again. As I did, I captured what I first though was a meteor streaking through the sky. If you've been lucky enough to spy a fiery chunk of rock as it trails toward earth, you know it's there and then gone in a flash.
Except this "meteor" kept streaking. And it appeared to be climbing across the starfield, not falling.
"What the what???" I gasped. At least, that's what I'm gonna tell my mom I said. I kept snapping photos and kept staring as this train of lights made its way across the entire bowl of the atmosphere.
Someone Call the X-Files
Unless Mulder and Skully were racing toward Palominas, I was pretty sure there was a terrestrial explanation. UFO conference or not, I was going to figure this out.
A little internet searching determined that what I spied in our Arizona skies was a long train of Starlink satellites. They traversed the sky single file, like a train of bright dots, creating what looked like a celestial morse code.
The spectacle lasted several minutes, and I watched as it disappeared on the horizon toward Tombstone.
Starlink and SpaceX
Here's what Google told me: Starlink is a project by Elon Musk's company, SpaceX. It's currently working to provide high-speed internet access to the world, and it's been launching thousands of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
To date, SpaceX has launched 13 times, with batches of 60 satellites each. They've got more launches planned in the near future, so if the heavens align for you (see what I did there??), there's a good chance you might catch a glimpse of this EXTRA Terrestrial experience.
Starlink Tracker Online
Hey, you can actually do this on purpose, if you want. An internet search brought me to an online tool called Starlink Tracker.
I now realize quite a few factors had to line up in order for me to see this happen in real time.
First, the clear skies made seeing the train a little more likely here in Arizona. Second, the full moon on the opposite side of the sky helped created the show. The moonlight reflected off the train of satellites, illuminating the mobile dots.
If you'd like to try this on purpose and get a glimpse of the Starlink Satellite Train, you can plan ahead with the Tracker. Punch in your location, and the tool will give you the time, date, and direction the satellites will pass overhead. You can also see a map with their current position and orbit.
The best part is, you don't need any special equipment, just your eyes and a clear sky. Even your not-so-great cell phone camera can grab a few shots, as I've not-so-clearly demonstrated.
But hurry up, because as the satellites move further away from Earth and use their thrusters to reach their final orbit, they become less visible.
So, call the X-Files is you want. Tell them the case is closed. For now.