In a cosmic twist, the night sky unveils an unexpected performer: not a twinkling star or distant planet, but a rogue tool bag pirouetting through the celestial stage. This captivating saga began on November 2 during a routine spacewalk, as NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara unintentionally set this humble tool bag on a solo journey around the International Space Station (ISS). Now, Earth spectators armed with binoculars can witness this celestial ballet as the bag gracefully orbits just ahead of the space station.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell unravels the mystery of this unconventional star— the tool bag’s intricate dance unfolds in a 415 by 416-kilometer orbit, earning it a cosmic designation from the U.S. Space Force as object 58229 / 1998-067WC. Although its glow is just shy of naked-eye visibility, with a visual magnitude of approximately 6, eager skywatchers armed with binoculars can savor the spectacle, reminiscent of spotting Uranus in the night sky.
To catch this impromptu star of the show, enthusiasts are advised to sync their stargazing schedules with the ISS’s orbital routine. The bag, twirling two to four minutes ahead of the space station, can be observed in all its cosmic glory. A video shared by European Space Agency astronaut Meganne Christian immortalizes the bag’s solitary cosmic ballet, emphasizing its status as an accidental artificial satellite.
For those enchanted by this celestial enigma, time is of the essence. The tool bag’s final act awaits as it descends into Earth’s atmosphere, destined to disintegrate at an altitude of around 113 kilometers or 70 miles. Until then, it joins the eclectic company of space debris, weaving its own chapter into the cosmic tapestry, a reminder that even mishaps can create mesmerizing celestial spectacles.