It was around 6:30 Saturday night when 20 or so people enjoying a child’s birthday party in Bergen County were stopped cold.
“Aliens!” one youngster shouted as those gathered at the Dumont girl’s 8th birthday bash watched a line of sparkling lights move through the sky.
“You know those planes that tow the ads at the Jersey Shore? They moved through the air like that,” one dad said. “Only there wasn’t any plane.”
It wasn’t Santa taking a dry run or a little “X Files” intrigue that created the aerial excitement in areas of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The culprit was SpaceX, a growing network of orbiting satellites launched by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk that aims to sell Internet connections to almost anyone on the planet.
The Starlink “constellation” offers high-speed, low-latency broadband service worldwide, says SpaceX, which has launched more than 100 Starlink satellites since mid-November.
The mass-produced small satellites fly in low Earth orbit, communicating with transceivers on the ground.
The network’s development began in 2015. The first prototype satellites were launched into orbit in 2018.
Nearly $885.5 million in FCC grants have shot the program past development: SpaceX says it’s launched more than 2,000 satellites this year, with many more to follow.
The most recent launch was Thursday, when a landable, relaunchable Falcon 9 rocket carried 48 satellites and two micro-satellites skyward from Cape Canaveral, FL.
This livestream video from Thursday shows the launch and explains the Starlink mission:
At last count, more than 100,000 customers in 14 countries were already being served by Starlink, Musk recently said.
You can track if/when the satellites are visible in your area.