There's a Fake Star in Space...For Humanity
You may have been looking at an artificial star while stargazing recently. Since January 21st, the brightest object in the sky, resembling a bright star, is actually what has been dubbed as the "Humanity Star"—a highly reflective satellite that rapidly blinks across the night sky and can be seen by the entire planet.
Created by Rocket Lab founder, Peter Beck, the Humanity Star is a geodesic sphere made with carbon fiber and features 76 reflective panels. Orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, Humanity Star spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars.
For perspective, Humanity Star is only about 3ft tall and weighs 22 lbs. Bets viewed at dawn or dusk, the "star" is seen for only a few seconds when it appears slightly brighter than the real stars alongside it.
But, why did Beck decide to launch this mirrored geometric sphere in space? Here's what he says on Humanity Star's website:
"The Humanity Star is designed to be a symbol in the night sky that encourages everyone to look up and ponder humanity’s place within the universe.
It was created to encourage people to look up and past terrestrial life to consider our position as one species on a small planet in a vast universe. It will hopefully encourage conversation about the collective challenges we are all facing that can only be solved by thinking and working as one species. The hope is that as people watch for it they will linger looking at the night sky. The intention was always to draw more people to the night sky, perhaps those who may not otherwise be looking."
Despite Beck's altruistic intentions, many have been referring to the star as "space graffiti" and a vandalization of the night sky due its artificial nature. But, they won't have to deal for long—Humanity Star's orbit will end with a fiery crash in Earth's atmosphere sometime in September 2018.
Before then, you can use the Humanity Star's website to track its movement.