Wild footage shows a SpaceX satellite burning up in Earth’s atmosphere


Dozens of SpaceX satellites are burning up.

A powerful pulse of energy from the sun (called a coronal mass ejection, or CME) triggered a storm in Earth’s atmosphere in early February, causing it to warm up and grow more dense. This proved fatal for a batch of SpaceX’s recently launched Starlink internet satellites, which the company put into a protective safe mode to “take cover from the storm.” Ultimately, up to 40 satellites succumbed to increased drag from the denser atmosphere, SpaceX said.

As a result, they’re now falling through, and burning up in, the sky. Video footage from Puerto Rico on Feb. 7, captured by the astronomy group Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe, shows a Starlink satellite vividly disintegrating.

When the video begins, the first piece of burning debris comes into focus at the bottom of the frame. Then, at around 50 seconds, the fireworks begin, as either pieces of the same satellite or potentially a different one fragments apart.

Marco Langbroek, a satellite tracker who works for the astronomy department at Leiden University in the Netherlands, blogged that “there is very little doubt that this was a Starlink satellite reentering.”

The disintegrating satellites, fortunately, will not add to humanity’s serious, and growing, space junk problem. And it’s unlikely the fragments pose any danger to Earthlings. “Starlink satellites are not very big and do not have big rocket engines, so there is very little chance that anything remains and reaches Earth surface from these reentries: It will all burn up in the atmosphere,” Langbroek wrote.