Amateur astronomers in the UK are in for a special treat this week. The man-made Humanity Star will be visible from Blighty for the first time since its launch in January.
The controversial satellite is the brainchild of privately-owned space company, Rocket Lab, who launched the fake star in a hush-hush mission on January 20, 2018. Despite its small size – it is just 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide – it is visible to the naked eye thanks to its 76 highly-reflective panels made from carbon fiber.
The satellite, which orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, will reappear over Britain on Wednesday, February 21. In Glasgow, viewers will be able to spot the “disco ball” at around 07:16:46am GMT. It will be visible at 07:17:20 GMT for people in Belfast, 07:17:29 GMT for people in Manchester, 07:17:33 for people in Liverpool, 07:18:17 GMT for people in Cardiff, and 07:18:40 GMT for people in Exeter.
The Humanity Star will take a quick break from the UK on Thursday to return again on Friday, February 23. This time it will be visible from Birmingham at 06:46:04 GMT, Leeds at 06:45:25 GMT, Cambridge at 06:45:53 GMT, London at 06:46:13 GMT, and Brighton at 06:46:30 GMT.
The project was designed to be “a bright symbol and reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe”, according to the company website.
“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,” Peter Beck, founder and company CEO, explained in a statement.
Unfortunately for Beck, several astronomers have very publically disagreed, calling it “space graffiti” and “another flashing item asking for eyeballs”.
“Most of us would not think it cute if I stuck a big flashing strobe-light on a polar bear, or emblazoned my company slogan across the perilous upper reaches of Everest,” Caleb Scharf wrote for Scientific American.
The orbit will decay by October, which will cause the satellite to disintegrate in the atmosphere as it tumbles down to Earth – so if you are at all curious, catch it while you can.
Astronomers state-side should be able to see the Humanity Star soar through US skies for the first time in March (we’ll be back with specifics then).
For the most accurate prediction of when it will be near you, check out the Humanity Star tracker.