Last Friday (11), one of the Starlink satellites, an initiative by Elon Musk to create global internet coverage, returned from space and could be seen by residents of São Paulo. Reports indicate that witnessing what happened was relatively easy. In events like this, the equipment shatters and burns when it enters the atmosphere, generating a fireball in the sky.
Marcelo Zurita, technical director of the Brazilian Meteor Observation Network (BRAMON), an institution that released images of two of its stations installed in Nhandeara, São Paulo, as well as those recorded by partner Clima ao Vivo, in Monte Azul Paulista, explains what was recorded : “When the cameras started recording, the satellite was already completely fragmented, passing over Paranaíba, Mato Grosso do Sul. The fragments moved slowly in the southeast direction. The recording was interrupted when they passed over the São Paulo municipality of Lins.”
“We have cameras further south that did not record the debris, so they must not have gone very far,” he explains.
“We discarded the first one that could have been a meteor or a bolide. We soon identified that it was space junk and released it, so that people would not worry”, adds the astronomer coordinator of the EXOSS Citizen Science Project.
The device in question was the Starlink-32, launched in 2019. Orbital data already predicted that it would return on the date and place mentioned, being seen from Brazil or over the Atlantic Ocean. In the coming weeks, other satellites are due to be brought back to Earth (with no chance of being witnessed by Brazilian eyes).
As for the dangers involved in these maneuvers, experts say they are minimal. As they are small machines and weigh about 230 kg, their structures considered fragile are usually incinerated before reaching the ground – which, however, still provides a visual spectacle worth remembering.