I think all of us have looked to the sky a little more often since the Chinese spy balloon floated across our county along with the growing obsession with aliens we’re seeing online. Listen, I think it’s impossible that Earth is the only planet that supports life in the entire universe, but I also don’t see any reason to worry or obsess over it. If Earth were to be invaded by some strange species of extraterrestrial, it would be out of my control anyway…so I don’t give it much thought.
The other night I was out fishing with a friend of mine named Ben; we were casting along a desolate stretch of beach that had produced some good catches in 2022 but, so far, this year it’s been very slow. Standing in silence my eyes were wandering around the seascape, trying to guess where certain flashing lights were positioned in the bay, watching the few large boats coming and going in the grey night ocean, then focusing on my darter and how it was working in the sweeping tide.
I have been forever fascinated by the night, from wildlife to the heightening of senses to all of the things I’ve seen in the sky – the northern lights, fireballs, shooting stars, comets, the list goes on. And on this slow night of surfcasting, my eyes, as they so often do, found themselves scanning the salted darkness above me. The sky seemed less alive than usual, perhaps caused by the thin veil of clouds that night and the increased light pollution in this particular spot. Still I peered upwards for a while and finally saw a single meteor streaking across the sky. The kid in me always makes a wish when I see one, call me what you want, but it’s always been a part of who I am.
Then, there was new life in the sky. One-by-one tiny white lights flicked on out of nothingness. Each of them so close to its neighbor they couldn’t possibly be planes or stars. Furthermore as the 30 or so lights glowed in unison, they made up a perfectly straight line, as if drawn with a ruler. Nature is fluid, nature is curved and imperfect…a pin-straight line of lights hanging in the midnight sky, really looked wrong. I’ll admit now that I knew what it was and I wasn’t worried about it. However, I knew that my friend probably didn’t, so I chose to exploit his naivety.
“Ben!” I shouted over the gentle waves, “Look at that!” I saw him scanning all around him, “No, look up!”
With a slight waver of nervousness in his voice he yelled back, “Um…what is that!?” I let him stew in his thoughts for a couple minutes. Perhaps detecting my lack of nerves he asked sarcastically, “What is that Santa Clause? It looks like Santa, has to be him!”
It truth, what we were seeing was a view of a Starlink Satellite train, these satellites provide global internet coverage and are being deployed by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX. Currently there are more than 4,000 of these satellites orbiting Earth but SpaceX says that there may be more than 10 times that amount in the future. I’ve read that astronomers and recreational sky watchers consider them to be a menace. I’m not sure I love seeing new lines in the night sky either, because the sky is one of the last things we have on Earth that hasn’t changed a whole lot since technology and human advancement have marred so many other things. However, I will say, it was cool to finally see them ‘in real life’ and I did get some kind of sick satisfaction out of watching my friend’s brain work overtime trying to figure out what he was looking at.
If you’re out at night and you see a perfect line of lights that appears and disappears over the course of a few minutes, it’s not aliens, it’s actually the work of one of our wealthiest earthlings. Feel free to do as I did and exploit the uninformed for your own enjoyment. You’re welcome.