This Russian satellite will soon be the brightest 'star' in the sky, ruining the work of astronomers

Greg Evans
Sunday 02 July 2017 08:15
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Picture:(iStock/Getty images)

A Russian satellite is about to be launched and it could very well become one of the brightest objects in the night sky.

Mayak is a project created by the Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University and was crowd funded by Russian website Boomstarter, where it raised $30,000.

In two weeks time it will be launched into the atmosphere from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Upon launch, it will be quite small, no bigger than a loaf of bread. Doesn't sound very impressive does it?

Well, once it is in full orbit at around 370 miles high, it will unfurl a huge pyramid shaped solar reflector which will beam light back to Earth. Sounds a bit more impressive.

Here's an image of the finished article from the project's official Twitter account.

Mayak will achieve this thanks to the 16 square metre reflector, made out of a thin material named Mylar. The mission also aims to test how to brake satellites in orbit and de-orbit them.

Once the reflector is fully extended IFL Science believe that it could shine with a magnitude of -3.6 - which would make it the fourth brightest object in the sky after the Sun, the Moon and Venus.

However, they also report that it could reach a magnitude of -10 which would make it brighter than Venus.

Astronomers are not happy about an artificial star obstructing their views.

Nick Howes from the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland told IFL Science:

We fight so hard for dark skies in and around our planet. To see this being potentially ruined by some ridiculous crowdfunded nonsense makes my heart simply despair.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer from Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, believes that peers in his profession will be annoyed but doubts that Mayak can realistically get that bright.

When addressing these concerns, Alex Shaenko, the Mayak project leader tried to reassure astronomers.

It will not be a problem.

There are a lot of spacecraft flying in the night sky, some even brighter than Mayak.

The engineers behind the project hope that it will peak the interest in space all over the world, as it will fly over many different locations.

According to the Mayak website the objective of the project is the:

Popularization of astronautics and space research in Russia, and also increase the attractiveness of science and technology education among young people.

HT IFLScience, Lad Bible

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