Is it a UFO, or is it just another one of Elon Musk’s satellites?
Researchers from the University of Vermont and the Center for UFO Studies found that Musk’s SpaceX was responsible for the uptick in UFO sightings since the pandemic began.
While researchers initially believed that pandemic boredom caused more people to investigate the night sky and report more than 600 sightings than normal in 2020, the cases coincided with SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.
The company launched dozens of satellites into orbit in May 2019 to provide internet coverage to 50 countries around the world, with reports of UFOs spiking at around the same time.
“These launches include up to 60 small satellites at once, and so are very distinctive and often easily visible,” researchers noted. “As a result, many people report these as UFOs.”
According to data from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), there were 5262 sightings in 2019 and 5,882 by 2020.
The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which also gathers reports of UFO sightings in the US, provides a lower estimate of 3,929 sightings in 2019 and 4,503 in 2020.
The study, however, concluded that with reports linked to Starlink satellites removed, “there was no increase in sightings in 2020 compared to 2019.”
As the researchers were hoping to find a link between UFO sightings and American behavior during the pandemic, they were not shy in slamming Musk for throwing a wrench in their work.
“Starlink satellites are becoming an increasing hindrance to astronomical research, and they are also an annoying complication for the investigation of UFO sightings.”
And Starlink hasn’t just caused headaches for UFO enthusiasts, astronomers have also bemoaned for years that the satellites are cluttering up images of the night sky.
A study last year found that the satellites created more than 5,300 streaks across archival images scientists had taken.
The number of UFO sightings and streaks linked to SpaceX will likely be much higher now that the company has more than 3,000 satellites orbiting the Earth, with many of them easily visible and currently making up the largest low-orbit constellation in the sky.
At the end of 2022, the company boasted that Starlink had more than 1 million active users, with Ukraine officials crediting the program for helping it stay connected during Russia’s invasion.
The company is aiming to have more than 10,000 satellites up in the sky by 2027.
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