SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s NASA’s solar system ambassador to Utah Patrick Wiggins explained the lights seen in Utah skies Wednesday night were a series of Starlink satellites.
What Utahns saw
Wiggins described the lights to KSL-TV.
“I think I counted 55 or 56 little dots of light all kind of congregating a little conga line if you will moving slowly across the sky and then mysteriously disappearing. So as soon as they went into the shadow of the earth they were no longer visible from down here. So it did look pretty neat though. A line of lights that just suddenly and almost magically extinguished.”
The lights were visible across Utah until they entered the Earth’s shadow.
Lights in Utah skies were satellites
“What was actually happening was these Starlink satellites, in orbit, coming toward the east and running into the shadow of the Earth,” Wiggins said. “Of course, they don’t give off light by themselves, they only reflect light. So as soon as they went into the shadow of the Earth, they were no longer visible from down here.”
Thursday night, the lights will be visible in northern Utah again at about 10:20 pm.
Over 1,300 satellites have already been launched that could swell into the thousands of satellites orbiting low-Earth’s orbit.
Elon Musk’s Space X launched 60 flat paneled broadband satellites into space on the Falcon 9 May 4, 2021. Space X’s goal is to have high-speed internet available to the entire world.
Some thought the lights were the Chinese rocket
Some Utahns were concerned the lights were the out-of-control Chinese rocket which is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend.
The U.S. Government through the Pentagon is monitoring the Chinese rocket as it heads back toward Earth.
Johnathan McDowell, is an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, he told CNN, this is not the “end of days.”
“I don’t think people should take precautions. The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small — not negligible, it could happen — but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny. And so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis,” he said.
The lights will eventually disappear
Wiggins predicts the lights will be available at night for a while until the satellites move apart and reach their permanent orbits.