By Deborah Byrd in ASTRONOMY ESSENTIALS | HUMAN WORLD | February 20, 2018
The debate surrounding the Humanity Star. Is it possible to see? Can you see it from your location? How to try to see it, if it’s visible, here.
Even though professional astronomers are mad about it, I love the name Humanity Star, and I’m fine with the idea behind its launch. That’ll remain true even if I never see it. This satellite – a 3-foot (one-meter) geodesic sphere, made up of 65 highly reflective carbon fiber panels – got a lot of media attention around the time of its January 21, 2018, launch, and it’s still getting media attention as late February and March approach, supposedly the best time to begin seeing it. I saw several new articles about it today, telling people how to watch it pass over their locations. It’s no wonder because the Humanity Star was billed as being:
… like a disco ball in space.
We all imagined it spinning up there in orbit, and brightly flashing reflected sunlight back to its earthly viewers.
But, like so many things, Humanity Star doesn’t seem to have lived up to its hype. Will you see it? Well … I’m not sure anyone can answer that question for you, yet.
You can definitely track Humanity Star for your location via the Humanity Star website, or via the tried and true website Heavens-Above.com. Both offer predictions related to its track across the sky, from whatever location you specify.
The question is, how bright will it be? Humanity Star was the brainchild of the U.S.-based aerospace company Rocket Lab. Around the time of the January 21 launch, Rocket Lab said that Humanity Star would be:
… the brightest object in the night sky.
Professional astronomers initially reacted to that claim with anger and unhappiness, by the way. If you want to read the early negative response from astronomers, check out this page on Mashable, in which journalist Miriam Kramer collected criticisms from astronomers who tweet.
These astronomers were worried the Humanity Star would be so bright it would interfere with their observations.
Of course, the sky doesn’t belong to professional astronomers. It belongs to all of us. And Humanity Star’s makers responded to these astronomers that the satellite wouldn’t be around for long; it’s destined to re-enter the atmosphere and vaporize less than a year after launch. Plus, Rocket Lab said, Humanity Star would be like:
… a bright flashing shooting star.
In other words, from any given location, on any given night, it would glide across the sky quickly, as the International Space Station and all Earth-orbiting satellites do. They look like quickly moving “stars.”