What's behind the mysterious lights seen over Switzerland this week?
On the night of June 13 to 14, people across Switzerland reached for their mobile phones to take pictures of a spookily bright chain of light that was making its way across the evening sky. However, before we cry aliens, don our protective gear, head down to the bunker and pray, the out-of-this-world sight is actually the product of one large and very terrestrial international company.
Strange light show seen over central Switzerland
From Lucerne and Baden to the ski resort of Gstaad, people across Switzerland woke up on the night of June 13 to see a bright chain of lights making its way across the night sky. Users quickly took to the internet to discuss what the phenomenon was - was it a UFO, shooting star, comet or meteor shower?
The strange sight also travelled around the world, with people in the United States and Canada reporting seeing the same string of lights later on in the night. However, before we ring the emergency services or the government for help, the Swiss media later revealed the non-cosmic origins of the spectacular light show.
SpaceX's Starlink responsible for light show over Switzerland
As it turned out, the sightings seen in Switzerland and indeed around the world were caused by human activity: specifically, Starlink satellites created by SpaceX, one of Elon Musk’s firms. Since 2018, the company has been launching satellites out of the atmosphere to create a “daisy chain” around the world.
Starlink satellites are responsible for providing internet to highly remote areas of the world. Perhaps most famously, the system was used to keep telecommunications open in Ukraine during the early stages of the Russian invasion. The satellites are also known for flying very close to the atmosphere, which is why they can be very bright at night.
The satellites also flew over Switzerland in January 2020, but the latest sighting will almost certainly not be the last time SpaceX fills up the night sky. In February 2023, Elon Musk announced that the company would be launching a new mobile package that offers roaming almost everywhere in the world for 200 Swiss francs a month.