Wyoming meteorologist Don Day crushed dreams of close encounters on Wednesday when he explained that a reported UFO sighting in Cheyenne was probably not a glimpse of alien craft, but rather a set of Starlink satellites.
Cowboy State Daily reader Will Lincoln on Wednesday told the outlet he saw a string of lights traveling in a line going from the west to the east directly over Cheyenne at about 4:45 a.m.
“I counted at least eight of them,” Lincoln said. “I Googled this sort of thing and SpaceX released some satellites in the past that seem to match the flight pattern I witnessed. Maybe it was something similar.”
Lincoln was correct, Day said. Starlink is a satellite internet network owned by SpaceX (which is owned by South African billionaire Elon Musk) that provides internet access to 33 countries.
“This is not the first time people have seen these satellites and thought they were UFOs or something else,” Day told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “There was a launch last week and when these satellites first go into orbit, they line up. It’s pretty amazing to see, because they’re so aligned and well-organized.”
When Lincoln checked back to Cowboy State Daily to see if the mystery was solved, he said he was “pretty sure the flying lights were headed to Devils Tower,” likely referring to the science fiction movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
That was not the case. Opposite direction, in fact.
Day sent a graphic showing the satellite movements on radar.
“These are the new Starlink satellites. They line up like this soon after they are launched. They’re now in Texas,” Day said.
There have been several instances of Starlink satellites being confused for UFOs or alien spacecraft, with reports submitted from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Sydney, Australia and other places within the last year.
Unlike typical internet service providers, which only send up one satellite at a time, Starlink sends up several satellites at once, since its satellites are smaller in size.
“They show up as these little lines of moving objects that can be quite bright,” Day said.
As someone who watches the night sky regularly, Day said that it was actually quite exciting to see the Starlink satellites after a launch.
“They go around the Earth several times before they disperse, so there are more opportunities for people to see them in the sky,” he said.
But he recommended those with their eyes on the skies check out websites or apps that track what satellites are in orbit before panicking about potential alien invaders.
Day would not say whether has seen a UFO himself, though, but did refer to the famous tagline of “The X-Files” series: “The truth is out there.”