Agence France-PresseMay 27, 2019 13:12:29 IST
A Dutch website set up to record UFO sightings was flooded early Saturday with reports after a "train of stars" was spotted crossing the Netherlands' skies, sparking fears of an alien invasion.
But what some thought to be a close encounter of the third kind turned out to be a string of some 60 satellites launched by US-based SpaceX hours earlier as part of its "Starlink" constellation. The row of satellites which are part of a plan by billionaire Elon Musk's firm to provide internet from space, glided across Dutch skies around 4.30am IST (11 pm GMT).
Shortly afterwards, Dutch website www.ufomeldpunt.nl was inundated with more than 150 sighting reports, with astonished spotters describing a "bizarre train of stars or lights moving across the skies at constant speed".
"There's a long line of lights. Faster than a plane. Huh?" one spotter reported, while another called it a "star caravan" and one saying "I have it on film".
One spotter simply texted: "WTF?"
"I didn't know what to make of it," an unnamed witness later told the NOS public broadcaster.
"Is it Russia attacking the US? Are they UFOs? Seriously, I didn't know," the witness said.
VIDEO! Prepare to be mind-blown!
The train of @SpaceX #Starlink satellites passing over Leiden, the Netherlands, some 25 minutes ago. Camera: WATEC 902H with Canon FD 1.8/50 mm lens. I was shouting when they entered FOV!@elonmusk https://t.co/xChLDH32uk
— Dr Marco Langbroek (@Marco_Langbroek) May 24, 2019
— Marcin Łoboz (@Marcin_Loboz) May 25, 2019
I know people are excited about those images of the train of SpaceX Starlink satellites, but it gives me pause.
They’re bright, and there are going to be a lot of them.
If SpaceX launches all 12,000, they will outnumber stars visible to the naked eye.
— Alex Parker (@Alex_Parker) May 25, 2019
One of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets blasted off without incident from Cape Canaveral in Florida at around 2.30 GMT on Friday.
An hour after liftoff, the rocket began to release the satellites at an altitude of 450 kilometres. Then, the satellites had to separate and use their thrusters to take up their positions in a relatively low orbit of 550 kilometres. Each of the satellites weighs 227 kilograms and was built in-house in Redmond, near Seattle.
One Dutchman who remained unfazed was satellite spotter Marco Langbroek, who knew what the mysterious lights were — and had his camera on hand.
"I cheered them on, the moment they appeared," he told the NOS.
Starlink will become operational once 800 satellites have been activated, which will require a dozen or so more launches.
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