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Tonight (10/19) at 11:00 PM I was looking up at the sky and saw a bright, smoothly moving, star moving noiselessly from northwest to northeast over my house. Tonight I was in South Florida, but have seen similar things over New York City. While I'd like to know what this was, in particular, any answer to ease my anxiety would help. I always wanted an explanation about what these moving stars were because they often fill me with a sense of dread. I have been dealing with anxiety regarding this issue for a while and can never get good answers. If you could help I would be so thankful.

No need to worry! The bright, smoothly moving object you saw was a human-made (aritificial) satellite. There are just under 3,000 satellites orbiting Earth as we speak, and many of them are visible on the night sky. These satellites are operated by private companies, national governments, and scientific agencies for many different purposes. Every time you open Google Earth or Google Maps, you're seeing thousands of composite images of the Earth's surface taken by satellites! Some radio services like Sirius XM are operated using satellites. Some governments and militaries use satellites to take images of Earth's surface, whether for investigating matters of national intelligence or to track large-scale weather systems like hurricanes. Some satellites are even powerful astronomical instruments, like the Hubble Space Telescope, which is able to take incredible images of other stars and galaxies because it orbits high enough to avoid looking through the Earth's atmosphere. When you look up at the night sky and see what appears to be a bright star moving quickly across the sky, what you're really seeing is a satellite that's reflecting the Sun's surface in just the right way for you to see it. It often appears to be moving quickly because most satellites are close enough to the Earth that they orbit around the Earth in much less than a day (so if you stuck around for a few hours, you might see that same satellite pass across the sky again). The satellites that you see are no cause for worry, although many astronomers are worried that sending more satellites into space (like Elon Musk's plans for the SpaceX satellite constellation called Starlink) will make it more difficult for us to see past the satellites to all of the amazing stars and galaxies that are waiting to be discovered.

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