A Russian Soyuz rocket has successfully launched a controversial satellite into orbit, which will become one of our brightest stars in a few days and may hamper astronomical observations.
The satellite is called Mayak, were prepared by Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University( MAMU) and money with $30,000 through Russian crowdfunding website Boomstarter. We first learned about it back in early 2016, and on Friday, July 14, it launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan along with 72 other satellites.
“The satellite launch was good, and we are looking forward to NORAD[ North American Aerospace Defense Command] to track it, Alexander Panov from Mayak told IFLScience. Roscosmos reported that everything was as schemed, without any additional info.
Mayak is a cubesat, a small spacecraft about the size of a loaf of bread. But once in position about 600 kilometers( 370 miles) above Land, it will unfurl a giant pyramid-shaped sail made of Mylar thats designed to reflect the Sun. It will span1 6 square meters( 170 square feet) and is apparently 20 hours thinner than human hair.
Klichnikova said they expected the spacecraft to unfurl in a few periods, and they will be tracking it on the ground from Caucasus on the border of Europe and Asia next week.
The company says the goal of the mission is to inspire people to look up to space, as well as testing engineering to de-orbit satellites. Applying an app on their phone, benefactors of the project can track its place and find out where reference is flying overhead.
The satellite shall be kept in orbit for at the least a month, although at such a high altitude, theres a potential it could stay there for many more months if its orbit does not properly degraded as planned.
By their computations, the company says it will shine with a magnitude of -1 0, third merely to the Sun and the Moon. Our computations indicate it will be -3, constructing it the fourth brightest object in the night sky after Venus.
Either way, if the unfurling is successful, Mayak is sure to pose problems. The brightness of the spacecraft could impede regular astronomers looking at the nighttime sky. And it is unable to pose a bigger problem for all-sky surveys, which monitor the entire sky.
Astronomers often have to deal with other artificial objects, including spacecrafts that occasionally shine brightly when they indicate the Sun. Some of the brightest of these are known as iridium flares. But these are an exasperation in of themselves; astronomers certainly dont crave other objects to hamper their observations.
The brightness is the issue, Nick Howes, an astronomer and former deputy director of the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, told IFLScience. Other satellites bar the ISS are comparatively swoon, and thats a scientific mission. This is just a stunt.
Despite what appears to be significant public and social media backlash against this by the astronomical community, they have proceeded to launch. One can only hope the mission fails and the is our intention to blight our pristine nighttime skies never takes shape.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told IFLScience: “I guess at the least one of these can be lived with, but if there were a bunch of them it would construct modern astronomy almost impossible.”
Not all astronomers think it’s a bad suggestion, however.Michael Wood-Vasey, from the University of Pittsburgh, said Mayak was “quite unlikely to be a problem for astronomers.”
He added: “Mayak is orbiting only above the day/ nighttime terminator line it’s always sunrise/ sundown below where Mayak is orbiting. It will thus be too low on( or even below) the horizon where reference is actually gets dark enough for astronomers to observe.”
For their part, the company says there is a scientific purpose for the mission. Aside from just shining brightly, the satellite will likewise test how to brake in orbit, with the large surface area causing more atmospheric drag and bringing it back into the atmosphere to burn up. This technology could be used to deorbit old satellites and space junk in the future.
However, there are undoubtedly other ways to test this technology without likewise inducing a nuisance. One of these alone might not be an issue, but ifthis set a precedent for more in future, that are likely to wouldn’t be great.