American start-up company Rocket Lab has launched a massive, highly reflective sphere akin to a disco ball, into orbit.
The object launched from New Zealand, and should be visible to the naked eye as it orbits the Earth. Rocket Lab’s Electron boosters are in operation from the North Island, the BBC reports.
The company announced that the rocket, named the “Humanity Star,” is Rocket Lab’s attempt to give everyone on the planet a shared experience. Peter Beck, CEO, said in a statement,
No matter where you are in the world, or what is happening in your life, everyone will be able to see the Humanity Star in the night sky.
This announcement solves a mystery that baffled amateur satellite-watchers, as a sixth unexplained item could not be accounted for among the small spacecraft leaving Earth.
The Humanity Star is a geodesic sphere made of carbon fiber with 65 highly reflective panels. The spacecraft circles the Earth every 90 minutes, and should be visible during twilight or when the rising sun shines up from the horizon to reflect off the spinning sphere’s surface.
Rocket Lab says that the Humanity Star will not stay up for very long. The sphere’s orbit is expected to decay over the next few months as it keep passing through the high atmosphere, and it will eventually fall and get burned up.
Professional astronomers tend to look unfavorably on projects that use mirrors and reflective surfaces, as these bright, artificial objects generally obstruct or pass across their view of the stars.
But for now, the disco ball is up and running, whether anyone objects or not. Beck said, “My hope is that all those looking up at it will look past it to the vast expanse of the Universe and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important for humanity.”