(NEXSTAR) – A chain of lights has been streaking through the skies of multiple states, including Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, Ohio, and Wisconsin since at least last week. While an interesting site to see, they aren’t, in fact, aliens.
Instead, those strings of lights moving across the night sky are Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX.
Starlink satellites, first launched in 2019, are used to provide broadband internet to customers around the globe. Since then, SpaceX has launched more than 3,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. The company plans to launch even more: Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX’s request to deploy 7,500 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, Space.com reports.
It’s the launch that’s most responsible for creating the train of lights so many have seen flying across the sky lately. After the satellites have been launched into orbit, they continue to travel in a line. While they remain at just the right elevation with the correct orientation, the sun will glint off the satellites, making them visible from the ground.
The satellites won’t, however, remain visible for long. You may see a Starlink chain glisten across the sky multiple times in one night because of how fast they move, but the satellites will eventually find their own orbits (unless they’re hit by a geomagnetic storm, which caused as many as 40 satellites to fall from orbit shortly after being launched last year).
While the satellites remain visible, there are a handful of online sites that can help you find some near you.
Find Starlink, available online and as an app, allows you to track nearby satellite chains in three different ways: by city, by your coordinates, or by using the “Live Map” tab. If you use either of the first two options, you’ll be able to view a results page with information on when you may see another Starlink parade overhead. According to the developer, Find Starlink tracks only the first satellite in every chain, otherwise “the results page will be very cluttered.”
Also available online and via the App Store, satellitemap.space relies on tracking data available through space-track.org to show Starlink locations. This site uses a Google Earth-like globe to display where Starlink satellites and chains are in orbit. You can click on each satellite to see its recent path, when it was launched, its altitude, and more. If you add a home location on the map, the site will calculate if and when a specific satellite will pass over you.
There is also this website, created by James Darpinian, a graphics and computer vision engineer with Google. On Darpinian’s site, you can allow the browser to access your location. By doing so, you’ll see a pin drop on a map near the left of your screen. On the right, you’ll see a video showing the sky at your location.
Within the video (which appears to be Google Maps’s Streetview option, but pointed skyward), you can view the constellations currently visible and the path of the nearest Starlink satellites. You can also toggle between different viewing times and schedule a reminder for yourselves to go outside and look for the Starlink satellites.
None of these sites claim to be affiliated with SpaceX, Starlink or Elon Musk. They also don’t claim to be completely accurate. They all agree, though, that millions of people across the country have the chance to see a train of Starlink satellites in the sky over the next few days.