Rocket Lab Launches 'Disco Ball' Star Into Orbit That's Now the 'Brightest Object in the Sky'

Thursday, 25 January 2018 - 12:00PM
Science News
Thursday, 25 January 2018 - 12:00PM
Rocket Lab Launches 'Disco Ball' Star Into Orbit That's Now the 'Brightest Object in the Sky'
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Image credit: Rocket Lab

Space has become a democratized pursuit over the last several years. Previously only available to our governmental agencies, now entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and pilots like Mike Melvill have managed to boldly go where only g-men had gone before. Last week, US company Rocket Lab also launched its first low-cost satellite into orbit. And with this sea change in space exploration also comes a fair bit of fun.

 

Though nowhere near as significant of a technological accomplishment, Rocket Lab has also just launched something of a galactic disco ball. The world's first global strobe light, dubbed the "Humanity Star," is a one-meter-tall carbon-fiber sphere made of up 65 highly-reflective panels.

 

While in space, its spinning panels reflect sun's light back to Earth and create a light show in the sky. Rocket Lab says it will be "the brightest object in the night sky," appearing similar to a shooting star as it orbits the planet every 90 minutes.

 

Cloudy conditions may alter your viewing experience, but you can see where the Humanity Star is at any given time by tracking it on the object's website.

 

"No matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace, everyone will be able to see the bright, blinking Humanity Star orbiting Earth in the night sky," says Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. "My hope is that everyone looking up at the Humanity Star will look past it to the expanse of the universe, feel a connection to our place in it and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important. Wait for when the Humanity Star is overhead and take your loved ones outside to look up and reflect. You may just feel a connection to the more than seven billion other people on this planet we share this ride with."

 

"Yes, it can definitely be the brightest object in the night sky, if it catches the light 'just right,' and if it's tumbling fast enough that should happen pretty often in all directions," Jim Clark, a graduate student at MIT's STARlab, told Quartz. In a best-case scenario, he said, it would "be bright enough during the day that even the tropics will get to see it."

 

While launching anything into orbit is impressive in and of itself, it's also just as easy to imagine the Humanity Star becoming nothing more than another piece of expensive, useless space junk sooner rather than later, only further clogging the space surrounding Earth with even more garbage. Of course, in that case, China's got us covered. They're already working on a laser to blow up debris in space. Hey, at least it beats vacuuming.

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