After a hiatus, SpaceX launched a fresh batch of 51 new Starlink satellites Monday night, Sept. 14, as part of a continuing effort to build a space-based, worldwide internet service. These newfangled versions now feature laser inter-satellite links that will allow the Starlinks to relay internet traffic from satellite to satellite around the world instead of first sending the signals to a ground station. Ground stations are not only expensive but can be geographically (and occasionally politically) challenging to set up.
You can see the current flotilla in a compact formation like "beads in a row" from many U.S. locations tonight, Sept. 15. Just go to Heavens Above, input your location (upper right window) and then click on the blue Starlink passes for all objects from a launch link on the left side of the page. You'll next see a long list of satellites and times (just seconds apart) when they're visible. Click on any of these lines and a map will pop up showing their path across the sky. The satellites are still in low orbit and should be relatively bright and easy to see.
Once you're set with Starlink information, return to the home page and click on the blue ISS link. The International Space Station (ISS) has returned to visibility in the evening sky through early October for much of North America. Follow the same procedure. After clicking the link, you'll get a map showing the station's path across your sky with time stamps along the route. All times on Heavens Above are local, so you don't have to do any conversions. Just remember that they're on the 24-hour clock, so 18:00 is 6 p.m. and 21:00 is 9 p.m.
Have you noticed the moon this week? It's getting big and bright as it waxes toward full phase on the 20th. I'll have more on what makes this particular moon special in an upcoming post. Along the way, it makes two stops, the first on Thursday, September 16th, when it passes directly under Saturn in conjunction. One night later, it shines just to the lower right of Jupiter. Both events are bright and easy to see. I hope you have clear skies!
"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer for the Duluth News Tribune. Read more of his work at duluthnewstribune.com/astrobob.