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The big fake ‘star’ that Rocket Lab sent into orbit is falling back down to Earth

Published Mar 21st, 2018 9:18AM EDT
humanity star

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You might not realize it, but new satellites are sent into orbit on an incredibly regular basis. Scientists, universities, space agencies, and communications companies are constantly putting new hardware in space, so when the CEO of private launch company Rocket Lab decided to stick one of his personal pet projects into orbit, it might not have seemed like a very big deal. The object, a giant disco-ball-like fake “star,” didn’t sit well with much of the scientific community, but thanks to the wonders of gravity they won’t have to worry about it much longer.

The big reflective orb, called “The Humanity Star,” was supposed to float around our night skies for most of the year, but apparently the odd piece of space art is making an early exit. Peter Beck, the aforementioned CEO of Rocket Lab, announced that the useless ball is poised to reenter Earth’s atmosphere within days. When it does, it’ll be met with intense friction that will incinerate it.

“Visible from earth with the naked eye, the Humanity Star is a highly reflective satellite that blinks brightly across the night sky to create a shared experience for everyone on the planet,” Rocket Lab said of the project prior to launch in January. “Created by Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck, the Humanity Star is a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels. It spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars.”

Unfortunately for Beck, the object’s path was poorly planned and now the “star” will make its not-so-grand exit much sooner than was initially thought. The good news is that, because the object is little more than a hollow husk, it should be completely destroyed upon reentry, leaving no debris to fall back down to Earth. This comes as good news for researchers and astronomers who were concerned that a “space art” trend could further contribute to the incredibly dire space junk problem that already exists.

“The exact moment of re-entry is challenging to predict,” the website dedicated to the Humanity Star explains. “Based on the current rate at which its altitude is dropping, the Humanity Star is predicted to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday, 22 Mar 2018 UTC.”