If you’re out and about on Thursday, look up. You might just see some sparkling satellites overhead.
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites are expected to cross New Zealand’s sky on Thursday evening.
Duncan Steel, an astronomer based in Nelson, said that in order to see the satellites, what is needed is for it to be at least 30 minutes past sunset wherever you are, but for the satellites at their high altitude (around 350km) to still be in sunlight.
This continues through until about 90 minutes post-sunset in any location down below.
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The satellites are part of SpaceX’s plan to create a massive constellation of small broadband satellites to boost internet connections.
The company launched its first batch of 60 satellites in May, 2019, and hopes to finish the project in 2027.
By then, the network could include up to 42,000 satellites – there are almost 300 satellites in orbit currently.
Are you capturing any good pictures of Elon’s satellites? Send your photos and videos to email@example.com
Steel said that one chain that would be visible throughout New Zealand on Thursday would appear in the west at about 8:30pm (the actual time depends upon your location) and would drop from view in the southeast at about 9:00pm.
This chain is from the launch of 60 satellites by SpaceX on February 17. Steel said the chain would pass fairly high in the sky (about 60 degrees above the horizon, again dependent on the viewer’s location).
The above satellite chain would appear brighter than most stars in the sky, Steel said.
An even better viewing opportunity will occur an hour later, starting at about 9:30pm and continuing until after 10:00pm. In this case the satellites will appear brighter than any star in the sky.
The chain will move from the southwest to the northeast, passing close to overhead for all of New Zealand.
As this chain progresses across the sky, the planet Venus and then the crescent moon will be setting close to due west, Steel said.