Star Caravan: SpaceX Starlink satellites spark UFO frenzy among Dutch astronomers

Over 150 sightings described the Starlink trail as a 'bizarre train of lights moving at constant speed'.

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".

Star Caravan: SpaceX Starlink satellites spark UFO frenzy among Dutch astronomers

Train of Starlink satellites visible in the night sky seen in this video captured by satellite tracker Marco Langbroek in Leiden, the Netherlands on 24 May, a day after SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket. Image credit: Marco Langbroek via SatTrackBlog

"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.

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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