See it before it burns up.
Want to spy the aftermath of astronauts comically screwing up on the job? Well, bust out the binoculars! There's a wayward tool bag currently floating in orbit after it was accidentally lost — and there's a good chance you can spot it from the ground, according to EarthSky.
The "orbital oopsie" occurred last week, when NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara were conducting a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. They were meant to conduct some fairly routine maintenance, and the pair successfully replaced a bearing assembly on a solar array and prepared for the future installation of another one.
Not everything went to plan, however, and somehow the tool bag got lost, helplessly floating out of the astronauts' reach and into orbit, where its time is running out.
— Dr Meganne Christian (@astro_meganne) November 5, 2023
Hot to Trot
Now in the Earth's pull, the tool bag has been cataloged as a +6th magnitude object, meaning that if you can see the ISS, then you should be able to see the tool bag, too.
At that magnitude, it's just below the limit of visibility for the naked eye, according to EarthSky, so even a basic pair of binoculars or low-powered telescope would be enough to see it — weather and light permitting.
And there will be plenty of opportunity to do so, as the tool bag should continue to orbit the Earth for several months. Though it's now a piece of space junk, NASA says it won't pose a threat to the ISS or to Earthlings below. As it plummets deeper into the atmosphere, in fact, the tool bag should burn up completely.
Hopefully, it won't be as costly a loss as the last time ISS astronauts misplaced a tool bag back in 2009, when a $100,000 one weighing about 30 pounds drifted free and eventually disintegrated upon re-entry.
And keen-eyed spectators at the time actually did manage to spot that bag using just binoculars before its demise — so it's well worth giving it a shot.
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