Astronomers angry after Rocket Lab throws giant ‘Disco ball’ in space
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Astronomers angry after Rocket Lab throws giant ‘Disco ball’ in space

Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based space startup company, has widely received criticism from the Astronomers worldwide after they secretively put a satellite likened to a giant ‘Disco ball’ into orbit. Dubbed as the ‘Humanity Star,’ the glistening artificial satellite by Rocket Lab will interfere with the scientific study of the universe, according to the annoyed astronomers and other researchers.

The satellite was put into orbit using a rocket launched from a remote sheep and cattle farm on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive officer, Peter Beck marks the event as an “almost unprecedented” step forward in commercial space exploration. The Electron rocket carrying the Humanity Star carried a total of three satellites into orbit, which included satellites for Rocket Lab customers Planet and Spire. The spacecraft was the first to launch into orbit from New Zealand, which marks yet another history for the company.

“Humanity Star,” a three-foot-wide geodesic sphere made from carbon fiber and fitted with 65 highly reflective panels, started orbiting since last week. The satellite will reflect the sun’s rays back to Earth creating a flashing light visible from anywhere on the globe, appearing as an artificial star. Beck expects to become the brightest object in the night sky for nine months, which hopefully it will until it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

On the other hand, the astrophysicists and space researchers around the globe are already facing challenges that include light pollution, and the Humanity Star supposedly will add to the already worsening condition. It is not the surprise launch of the satellite that bothers them, but the overtly shining appearance picked by Rocket Lab in order to achieve free worldwide publicity.

The Humanity Star spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth. It would create a flashing light that can be distinctly spotted against a backdrop of stars. Humanity Star, invented to be a bright symbol, and according to Peter Beck’s words, a “reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe,” will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes and be visible from anywhere on the globe.

“This one instance won’t be a big deal, but the idea of it becoming commonplace, especially at larger scales, would bring astronomers out into the street,” Richard Easther from the University of Auckland told the Guardian. He added that he could understand the enthusiasm for such an unusual thing, but he also gets the sense that Rocket Lab did not realize that people could see a downside to it.