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Not a UFO - What last night’s line of lights in the Ozarks actually means

Starlink Satellites passed over the Ozarks region Thursday night
Published: May. 7, 2021 at 2:09 PM CDT|Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 5:51 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Did you see a string of lights in the sky last night? Don’t worry, it was not caused by UFOs.

A KY3 viewer sent pictures of the lights which passed over the Ozarks last night. Those lights are actually Starlink Satellites.

SpaceX launched the satellites Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida which will help bring the internet to rural areas.

Starlink Satellites visible in the Ozarks
Starlink Satellites visible in the Ozarks(Miguel Keonig)

This is not the first time viewers have sent KY3 pictures of the satellites. On April 7, the lights were also reported across the Ozarks.

Starlink Satellites visible in the Ozarks
Starlink Satellites visible in the Ozarks(Eva Dedmon)

Starlink Satellites are 60 times closer to earth than regular satellites.

These likely will not be the only satellites we see. More than 1,300 Starlink Satellites are in orbit right now, but there are plans to deploy a total of 2,814 satellites.

Eventually, the satellites will space out and no longer form a line.

You can track the satellites HERE or view a Starlink map HERE. You can also track Starlink satellites on an interactive display HERE.

Maddie Grinder of Mountain Home, Arkansas was one of many people in the Ozarks and all across the nation who’s snapped photos or grabbed video of those eerie lights in formation moving across the night sky.

It left many people wondering if it was stars in alignment, a military exercise, their minds playing tricks on them or maybe UFO’s.

“My first thought was ‘O.K. we need to grab some aluminum foil, go down to the basement and kind of hide out, ‘ya know?’” Grinder said of her reaction.

The best time to view the satellites is early in the evening just after sunset, usually in the 9-10 p.m. range. The satellites will eventually spread out but since a group of them are launched at the same time, they are in the same formation for a while.

“They are part of a satellite constellation,” explained Dr. Sarah Morrison, a Missouri State University Assistant Professor of Astronomy. “They share a very similar orbit so when you’re looking in the night sky at the right time they will appear as a string of lights.”

Even though the satellites don’t actually have lights on them.

“They don’t produce their own light, they just reflect sunlight so you have to be looking when the sunlight is still able to hit them,” added Dr. Greg Ojakangas, an Associate Professor of Physics at Drury University. “Later in the evening at their altitudes they’re completely in the dark.”

Ojakangas has spent over two decades working with NASA on space debris and said this latest addition of thousands of satellites definitely brings with it a cause for concern.

“Among other environmental problems we are entering a time in history when the likelihood of collisions in space are greatly increasing,” he said. “In the last Space X launch the crew in the capsule was told to put their spacesuits on because as they were climbing out of the gravity of the earth there was a probability that they were going to hit something. There’s a lot of stuff up there, something like 26,000 large objects bigger than a cellphone as well as hundreds of thousands smaller ones and they’re all moving very fast.”

In fact this weekend a Chinese rocket is expected to crash back down to earth with 20 tons of debris. No one knows exactly where parts of it could land but Ojakangas said people in the Ozarks shouldn’t worry.

“I think it’s not possible for it to hit in this area because the individual orbits kind of miss Springfield,” he pointed out.

But as for those eerie lights, Maddie is breathing a sigh of relief.

“My parents used to watch ‘War of the Worlds’ and it traumatized me,” she said with a laugh. “I have this irrational fear of aliens so I’m very happy to hear that it’s not aliens.”

“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions for these type of things and assume there’s some extraterrestrial origin,” Morrison said of spotting unknown objects in the sky. “But that being said I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the universe too.”

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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