Dear Action Line: I think we’re being invaded, but it’s possible there’s another explanation. I saw a string of lights in the night sky a few nights ago. There were maybe 10 to 15 lights in a blurry line, although it was hard to discern them all. They were moving basically from southwest to northeast. If this is an invasion, please don’t answer this because I’d rather not know. But maybe there’s another explanation? – Lighting Up
Dear Lighting: By now, many of you have probably heard the “official” explanation that these are communication satellites being released into the atmosphere above Earth, and have something to do with Elon Musk. Action Line is pretty sure that’s just a cover story to prevent worldwide panic, because that’s what governments and military authorities do. We know this is true because that’s what happens in the movies and on TV.
But just for fun, let’s pretend that the official version is correct.
Yes indeed, these are Starlink satellites being launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Vandenburg Space Force Base in California. It’s true, the U.S. has several “Space Force” installations nowadays, including three in Colorado. Several dozen satellites are launched together – earlier in May, 56 were released from one rocket – and they make a nice long “string” in the sky. If you’re in the right place as they soar overhead, you can see them.
SpaceX has now sent around 4,500 Starlink satellites into orbit around Earth, according to the spaceflightnow.com website. This process began around 2019. The satellites are about 340 miles above Earth’s surface.
Starlink provides an internet service – a broadband network – that some of you readers must already know about and use. It’s an alternative for those who don’t have good, or any, internet service available. You probably live out “in the sticks,” as we used to say.
For confirmation of these sightings, and to see if local skywatchers “in the know” were paying attention, Action Line made a couple of inquiries.
Durango-La Plata Airport Director Tony Vicari confirmed that no recent airport activities would account for these light strings, but added that with the growth of Agile Space Industries in Durango, “you never know” what the future may hold.
Charles Hakes, a Fort Lewis College physics and engineering lecturer, as well as Herald astronomy columnist, said he has seen several of these Starlink strings.
“And unfortunately, I have captured several ‘streaky’ photos,” Hakes said. “Right after launching a set, it takes a while to move them (very slowly) into their final orbit, after which they are less visible. I know a while back they were doing some tests on a ‘dark’ Starlink version, but I haven’t kept up with the latest on that.”
It’s a bit disconcerting to think of all of the objects up there – all those satellites and other space debris that could fall from the sky at any time because of the gravity issue, but to date, not too many people have been hit by such objects. So we should probably focus our worries on more likely dangers, such as a zombie apocalypse or a surprise wilderness attack by a rabid yeti.
If you’re curious to see this string of satellites, consult the website Findstarlink.com to see when they’re coming your way.
Dear Action Line: The citywide Spring Cleanup is a great city service to turn all those winter storm broken branches and pruned tree limbs into mulch. What happens to all the bagged-up leaves, twigs and other organic waste? Does it get processed as mulch or is it thrown “away” like all the plastic bags and other discarded items? – Mulch Adoo
Dear Mulch: Looks like we made it through another spring/fall cleanup. Action Line probably gets as many comments/questions about this event/service as just about anything. So, because it took so long for Action Line to respond to this question, let’s get right to the answer. This comes from Allison Baker, the city’s public works director:
“We do chip limbs, but the leaves and twigs are mixed with other items so they usually aren’t clean enough to run through the chipper,” she said earlier in May. “The streets supervisor reports that we’ve chipped about 155 cubic yards so far this spring. For reference, a dump truck is typically 9 to 10 cubic yards.”
For those hoping for free mulch, the city needs around 250 cubic yards to offer free mulch, so the 155 cubic yards was not enough to make this happen. Maybe next spring.
Altogether, the city picked up 4,000-plus cubic yards of trash this spring, a significant increase from last year’s 3,200 cubic yards. If you want to get excited about this achievement, feel free to do so.
If you have any other questions about this much ballyhooed biannual Durango happening, try the city’s website here: durangogov.org/346/Spring-and-Fall-Cleanup.
Email questions and suggestions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. It’s also a little, or a lot, unsettling how many spy satellites and other cameras are floating around up there that can watch pretty much every move we make. Ah, the 21st century.