SpaceX Satellite Burning up in Earth’s Atmosphere
Hundreds of SpaceX satellites are exploding. In early February, a massive burst of energy from the sun (known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME) produced a storm in Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to warm up and become denser. This was fatal for a batch of SpaceX’s recently launched Starlink internet satellites, which were placed in a protective safe mode to “take cover from the storm.” According to SpaceX, up to 40 satellites died as a result of the denser atmosphere’s higher drag.
As a result, they’re falling through the sky and burning up. The astronomy group Sociedad de Astronoma del Caribe recorded video footage from Puerto Rico on Feb. 7 that shows a Starlink satellite dramatically dissolving.
The first piece of smoldering debris comes into focus at the bottom of the frame when the video starts. Then, roughly 50 seconds later, the fireworks commence, as chunks of the same satellite or possibly a separate one shatter apart.
“There is very little question that this was a Starlink satellite reentering,” wrote Marco Langbroek, a satellite tracker at the astronomy department at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Fortunately, the collapsing satellites will not contribute to humanity’s severe and rising space debris problem. It’s also doubtful that the shards represent a threat to Earthlings. “Because Starlink satellites are small and lack powerful rocket engines, there is very little likelihood that anything from these reentries survives and reaches Earth’s surface: it will all burn up in the atmosphere,” Langbroek stated.
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