Starlink satellites photo from Kosovo, not Pakistan

Image was originally shared by multiple websites in 2020

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Claim: A photo apparently shows Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites visible in the sky from Pakistan.

Fact: The image is, in fact, two years old and has no link to Pakistan. It was taken as a screenshot from a video posted by a Kosovo-based software developer.

On 8 September 2022, Facebook user Umar Farooq posted in the popular group ‘Voice Of Customer’ a picture of what appears to be tiny white dots against a cityscape background, with the caption:

“Saw this strange line of lights following in a straight line. Is this Elon musk’s satellite.”

Farooq — who, according to their Facebook profile, hails from Mandi Bahauddin and studies at a university in Lahore — appears to claim the satellites were seen from somewhere in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The Starlink satellites are a project of SpaceX, a spacecraft engineering company founded by billionaire Elon Musk — also the chief executive office of American automotive manufacturer Tesla, Inc. — that aims to provide Internet access to 40 countries around the world. The satellites were sent to space in 2019 and more have been sent in batches of 60.

Many social media users in Pakistan have uploaded pictures that they claim show the Starlink satellites. While some of these images are genuine, old photos taken elsewhere are also trending in Pakistan.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check used Google Lens, Google Reverse Image Search, and Yandex Reverse Image Search to ascertain the source of the picture.

We came across various websites that carried the same picture, including Cellulare Magazine, ABC 7’s local news station My Suncoast, Sputnik Turkey, and The Independent. The British newspaper had credited Republic of Kosovo-based software developer Astrit Spanca in the caption of its header image, leading us to search for his Twitter.

We found that Spanca had on 19 April 2020 tweeted a video clip that he claims shows Starlink satellites from Kosovo. The viral image in question is a screenshot from this video.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the seven-day period from 6 September 2022 to 13 September using the following search terms:

  • “Saw this strange line of lights following in a straight line. Is this Elon musk’s satellite.”
  • “مسک سیٹلائٹ”

The first search term turned up more than 3,100 interactions across four posts on Facebook, while the second one yielded over 250 posts that received close to 13,000 interactions.

We also found the image in other Facebook posts such as here, here, here, here, and here.

Conclusion: The image is a screenshot from a video taken in Kosovo and posted online two years ago. The image was not taken in Pakistan.

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