YouTuber Captures Mystery Objects Flying Across The Eclipse. Astronomers Don’t Think They’re Satellites

YouTuber Captures Mystery Objects Flying Across The Eclipse. Astronomers Don’t Think They’re Satellites

An aerospace engineer and YouTuber has captured footage of several unidentified objects whizzing past the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Destin Sandlin, like many others, traveled to the path of totality in order to attempt to video and photograph the eclipse. When he looked at the footage, he noticed a few odd objects appearing to zip by the Sun and Moon. 

“When I started looking at this footage, I wanted to see C2 [when the eclipse begins] and C3 [when the eclipse ends], Baily’s beads, around the edges of the mountains of the moon, right?” Sandlin said in a video on his YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay. “So I started looking at it, and then I realized there is something flying across the sky, like right at C3. It could be a bug, it could be a plane, or it could be a satellite.”

Watching more of the footage, he found a second object that crossed the face of the Moon.

Sandlin believes the objects to be satellites, which is a plausible hypothesis, though a few astronomers have raised questions about whether this is possible. 

He first showed the footage to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, whose initial reaction was that the objects appeared to be moving too fast to be a satellite. He guessed that the objects were likely not far and fast, but close and reasonably nippy. In short, he thought they were bugs.

However, McDowell then explained that using the Sun as a reference, we can calculate how fast it was going (assuming it was roughly at the height of low-orbit satellites). Assuming it was traveling at around 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, its speed would be around that of a satellite, meaning the satellite theory might not be one to rule out.

Sandlin then reached out to others in the area, to see if they had seen it too. A YouTuber around 30 meters (100 feet) away had captured what looks like the same first object when the footage was resized and laid over the top of Sandlin’s video. So that rules out bugs, right? 

Maybe. The objects in both videos are not perfectly lined up. Though they match in apparent speed and direction, one appears further to the right. Assuming they are both the same object, this allows you to calculate a (very approximate, given that the exact distance between the two YouTubers is unknown) distance. 

There is another problem with the satellite idea. One of those big circles behind the object is the Sun, so how did they get lit up like that?

“I have strong doubts these are satellites,” Dr Marco Langbroek, lecturer in Optical Space Situational Awareness at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, wrote on X. “At the eclipsed sun position, the phase angle of satellites is 180 degrees – i.e. you are looking at their “dark sides”: they are (like the moon in front of the sun!) not illuminated and hence should not be visible.”

There are suggestions that the satellites could be lit up by the reflected light from the Earth, but this has problems too. Langbroek adds that the objects in the video appear too bright for Earthshine.

Others have suggested the objects could be meteors, or space junk closer to the Earth. Similar objects were seen during the 2017 eclipse.

It remains unclear what the objects are, but Sandlin has asked his viewers to try and figure out what satellites could have been passing overhead, as a challenge. Hopefully soon, somebody will be able to figure out whether we’re looking at satellites, space junk, meteors, or some bugs close to the camera.

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