Strange String of Lights in the Sky? SpaceX's Falcon 9 Satellite Launch the Likely Cause

Several reports have emerged of people seeing a bright strand of lights crossing the sky at around the same time on Thursday morning. Sadly, it probably wasn't aliens.

The string of lights was most likely caused by a group of Starlink satellites that had been launched the previous afternoon, according to FindStarlink.com.

Starlink is the name of the satellite network operated by Elon Musk's rocket firm SpaceX. Its purpose is to beam down an internet connection to anyone who wishes to pay for it.

Because the satellites are launched in groups—usually in a batch of 60—they tend to form straight lines as they orbit the Earth.

These lines of satellites can be seen by the naked eye from the ground when they reflect the sun's light—an arresting sight for someone who doesn't know what they are.

Some people took to Twitter after spotting the lights passing overhead to question what they were. The reports all came through at around 12:30 am EDT on Thursday morning from various locations.

One person said: "Anyone else in Salt Lake City see that band of white lights cross the sky about 5—10 minutes ago?"

Another wrote: "It looks like a strand of lights being towed by a plane."

Anyone else in #SaltLakeCity see that band of white lights cross the sky about 5-10 minutes ago? Went over Sugar House and East Millcreek

— Scott Duehlmeier 🥤 (@Paco_Belle) May 27, 2021

Does anyone know what the string of lights in the sky was at about 10:25pm? See them from Riverton @KSLcom @fox13 @KUTV2News #utah #SaltLakeCity

— Cassidy Larsen 🇺🇸 (@CassidyKLarsen) May 27, 2021

#Astrophotography
I was outside tonight aligning my telescope when I noticed this series of very bright lights moving W to E about 75 degrees up in the sky. It’s a tight linear cluster of lights about as bright as Venus. I assume it’s a group of satellites, but awfully bright. pic.twitter.com/OvrVHb3BKb

— Declan O'Riordan, MD FAAP (@DrDeclanInIdaho) May 27, 2021

Alright twitter, help me out here. Just witnessed this in the sky.

Too slow for a shooting star (doesn't twinkle or flicker either)
Not falling space debris, as it doesn't split apart or anything. It looks like a strand of lights being towed by a plane. pic.twitter.com/IOi6Gl0FQp

— Lakota 🌻 (@LakotaLutrova) May 27, 2021

The Fox 13 broadcasting service said it had received dozens of reports from people who had seen the lights overhead. The Federal Aviation Administration told the outlet the lights were "more than likely" satellites.

According to FindStarlink.com, a website that tracks the groups of satellites so people know when to see them in the sky, a group of Starlink satellites was due to pass over Salt Lake City just before 12:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday morning, coinciding with the Twitter reports.

It states the particular Starlink group was called Starlink-28, which had been launched into orbit by SpaceX earlier on Wednesday.

The group of 60 satellites was launched aboard one of the company's workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. That particular model had flown once before.

The mission marked the hundredth consecutive successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket as well as the 16th SpaceX launch so far this year. It brings the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to 1,737, Space.com reported.

This may sound like a lot, but it is only a fraction of the amount SpaceX ultimately wants to have. The company has been given permission by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put 12,000 Starlink satellites into orbit, but this number could swell even further to tens of thousands.

The plans have given rise to concerns the satellites could impede on the activities of Earth-based telescopes by interrupting clear views of the sky.

spacex starlink satellites strange line sky, getty
This long-exposure image shows a trail of a group of SpaceX's Starlink satellites passing over Uruguay as seen from the countryside some 185 km north of Montevideo near Capilla del Sauce, Florida Department, on February 7, 2021. Another group of satellites may have been spotted in the U.S. on Thursday night. MARIANA SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Images