Watch Out for Solar Sail Flares!

Artist concept of a solar sail in space.On Jan. 21st, NanoSail-D unfurled a 10 m2 sail 650 km above Earth’s surface, becoming the first solar sail to orbit our planet. For the next few months it will skim the top of the atmosphere, slowly descending in a test of ‘drag sails’ as a means of de-orbiting space junk. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will disintegrate like a meteor in April or May of 2011, dispersing harmlessly more than 1100 km high.

Meanwhile, sky watchers should be alert for flares lasting 5 to 10 seconds outshining the brightest stars in the sky, mimicking a supernova, perhaps even casting faint shadows at your feet.

For more information about NanoSail-D click here.

(Full article located at Science@NASA, by Dr. Tony Phillips)

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