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Lights in the sky create excitement in Northeast Wisconsin

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT|Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Phones started to ring off the hook in our newsroom Thursday with viewers reporting a line of white lights in the night sky.

The calls began around 9:45 P.M. Callers reported dozens of lights following each other from the southwestern to eastern part of the sky, taking about a minute-and-a-half to cross the distance.

“All we saw was this huge stream of white lights, and we didn’t quite know what they were. Our first thought was maybe they’re aliens,” says Ryan Berg of Menasha.

The lights were SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. We determined that from the viewers’ descriptions and a SpaceX website for tracking Starlink satellites, which showed Starlink would be brightly visible over Wisconsin traveling from southwest to northeast around 9:36 P.M.

They were the most recent group of Starlink satellites launched earlier this week.

“We are having a great test of these Starlink satellites that are launched by SpaceX in cooperation with, everybody has heard about, Elon Musk,” Alan Peche from The Barlow Planetarium in Menasha said.

Starlink satellites are providing internet service around the globe. “The plan for these tiny satellites is to cover the Earth, providing broadband for any place on Earth,” Peche explained. “They’re going to be positioned in such a way, that if you’re in the middle of the Outback in Australia, you might still be able to get 50 megabytes a second.”

The 60 satellites that many across Northeast Wisconsin saw in the sky Thursday night are part of a bigger project that will put about 2,500 of the devices in orbit. They’ve been criticized by astronomers because their bright streaks interfere with telescopes’ observations and “photobomb” time-lapse photographs.

For those who saw the train of lights, it’s definitely a memorable sight.

“It’s still one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in the sky, and it just was kind of out of this world -- which turns out it was ‘out of this world,’” Berg said, “and we’re hoping we’ll be able to see them again someday and glad they’re not aliens.”

Brad Spakowitz talked about the Starlink internet project last month on Action 2 News at 4:30.

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