Screen shot from NASA TV during the solar array deployment. Credit: NASA TV

ISS Now 2nd Brightest Object in Night Sky with Final Solar Arrays Deployed

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

by

[/caption]
The International Space Station should now be the second brightest object in the night sky, following Friday’s successful deploy of the S6 solar wings. Astronauts on board the ISS and space shuttle Discovery unfurled the arrays, successfully carrying out the main objective of the STS-119 mission. “Today was a great day,” said ISS commander Mike Fincke to mission control Friday afternoon. “Today is the day the station went to full power.” The length of the arrays unfurled Friday measures 73 meters (240 feet), tip to tip, with the S6 truss in between. The S6 solar array pair adds 2,926 892 square meters (9,600 square feet) to the station solar arrays, bringing the total surface area to nearly an acre. The station’s arrays now will generate as much as 120 kilowatts of usable electricity, enough to power about 42 854 260 square meter (2800-square-foot) homes.

The station should now be the second brightest object in the night sky –even brighter than Venus, and second only to the Moon.

The S6 blanket box before deploy (behind the arrays unfurled during a previous mission). Credit: NASA TV

The S6 blanket box before deploy (behind the arrays unfurled during a previous mission). Credit: NASA TV

The deployment proceeded without any problems, as the astronauts unfurled the arrays in a gradual process, deploying the arrays half way, then letting the sun warm the arrays to decrease the probability of the “stiction” problem, where the solar array blanket slats stick together due to a protective sticky film on the slats. The solar arrays have been in storage for several years, all folded up. The areas of “ripple” flattened out naturally and the crew and Mission Control reported the array extended to its full length of 35 meters (115 feet) on each side. The new arrays add enough power-generating capacity to double the electricity available for space station science operations, from 15 to 30 kilowatts.

This is great time to take the opportunity to view the station as it passes over North America and Europe. For more information on how to see the ISS, see our previous article on viewing the station.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
the_nthian
Member
the_nthian
March 20, 2009 2:51 PM

“The station’s arrays now will generate as much as 120 kilowatts of usable electricity…”

“…the electricity available for space station science operations, from 15 to 30 kilowatts.”

There is a four-fold difference in power available quoted in this article. Which is the true value here?

Nancy Atkinson
Guest
March 20, 2009 3:10 PM

15-30 kw are available for the science operations, the rest is for regular station requirements

Gonzalo Oxenford
Guest
March 20, 2009 3:31 PM

“This is great time to take the opportunity to view the station as it passes over North America and Europe.”

What about the rest of the world?

Total Science
Member
March 20, 2009 4:43 PM

Amazing what a little intelligent design can do…=)

LiddleLizzard
Guest
LiddleLizzard
March 20, 2009 8:24 PM

Lol at the Troll

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
March 20, 2009 8:41 PM

Isn’t it the third brightest? There is that sun thing up there too.

Frank Glover
Guest
Frank Glover
March 20, 2009 8:54 PM

“This is great time to take the opportunity to view the station as it passes over North America and Europe.”

What about the rest of the world?

Presumably because ISS would be in complete darkness in other nighttime areas for now. A satellite is normally most visible at times when it is still in sunlight, but it’s dark below.

dbreit
Guest
March 20, 2009 10:58 PM

Andrew Says:
March 20th, 2009 at 8:41 pm
Isn’t it the third brightest? There is that sun thing up there too.

——————————————

The Sun is never in the NIGHT Sky…

juliagray
Member
juliagray
March 20, 2009 11:51 PM

We went out to look at it early this morning (from Australia, so there’s the answer to the “rest of the world” question) and didn’t know that the array had already been deployed. But boy did we know it when it went over. MUCH brighter than the last time we checked it out when the shuttle was docked, and yes, definitely brighter than Venus. Awesome!

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
March 21, 2009 12:47 AM
Meanwhile, it became spring in the Year of Astronomy. And, as a side effect, this is is the greatest contribution to it! A new star in the sky, visible for nearly whole mankind. This will influence the public consciousness of spaceflight permanently. To look up in the night sky and to see another star inhabited by human beings out there This star will encourage humans worldwide. In metropolises and in slums, in agrarian states and dessert regions. It will inspire children and hard-bitten old guys in every corner of the world. Illiterate and drunken revelers likewise will look up and wonder. “What the feck is that?” A new potential for observation and education. Imagine what forms of visual… Read more »
Feenixx
Member
March 21, 2009 3:07 AM

Nancy, I like this article, and I have sent the link to lots of people.
The ISS is clearly visible from where I live (Ireland).
It also gives rise to much discussion and controversy. Some consider it a powerful symbol of human achievement, others look at it as an intrusion on their vista of Nature.
I have chosen my own stance on the issue, but I can relate to both points of view.

Slobodan
Guest
Slobodan
March 21, 2009 5:42 AM

How would the arrays be resistant so space debris such as the two recent threats? Probably there will be more and the target is now bigger …

Feenixx
Member
March 21, 2009 5:54 AM

hmmm, something here doesn’t add up:

“enough to power about 42 854 square meter (2800-square-foot) homes”

a 2800 square-foot-home, that’s a nice large space, a little over 250 square metres… plenty for a family with a few kids and an observatory or study for dad to do astronomy and science. It’s four times the size of my apartment, but nowhere near 854 square metres. This would be larger than two Basketball courts put together…?

Tim Lovell
Guest
Tim Lovell
March 21, 2009 7:03 AM

At best the ISS is the third brightest object in the night sky after Iridium Flares. They can reach magnitude -8 (http://www.heavens-above.com/iridiumhelp.asp). Still, the ISS is a fantastic sight to see and is easier to spot.

martinlewicki
Member
martinlewicki
March 21, 2009 7:30 AM

While we may marvel at the now brighter space station, this is sign of things to come – a time when there are so many bright orbiting space objects that there will be nowhere to escape to a truly dark starry sky. The light pollution will be coming from above!

Slobodan
Guest
Slobodan
March 21, 2009 8:37 AM

I agree with the former comment – no matter where you go you will see them. By by pristine night sky …

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
March 21, 2009 8:55 AM

Humans love light, Martin. Our ancestors lived in fear of dark places and of night. They were helpless and full of horror by nightfall. The mastery of light set us free.

“though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil”

Today we bring light to whichever places we want to. Are we not like the gods? Or at least more powerful than the mightiest sorcerer of the Stone Age? click! The benefits of our ability to create light always and everywhere do by far outnumber the disadvantages and the costs.

You know the last words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe?

“Light! More light!”

Marjorie
Guest
Marjorie
March 21, 2009 9:29 AM

Light is important, but so is darkness. We need both, and so do the many animal species that are nocturnal. Not only does excessive light at night ruin stargazing, not to mention sleep, but it also disrupts the natural life cycles of animals that are active at night.

I don’t think the ISS and other bright man-made objects are the problem as far as light pollution goes, though. The ISS is just another bright star. The problems that cause excessive light at night are streetlights and lights in and around buildings.

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
March 21, 2009 9:46 AM

Dear Marjorie, that’s exactly what it is. The magnitude of the ISS makes her unattractive as a reading lamp.

Nevertheless, I think we also could put very large structures into an earth orbit, which would be able to reflect a lot of light. I remember that during the Sovjet era there was a project to lighten Siberian cities from orbit. Or what about a solar sail?

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
March 21, 2009 10:16 AM
Of course, darkness is important for our health, too. “Scientists suspect that shift work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock. The hormone melatonin, which can suppress tumor development, is normally produced at night. Light shuts down melatonin production, so people working in artificial light at night may have lower melatonin levels, which scientists think can raise their chances of developing cancer.” (“Graveyard shift linked to cancer risk”, msnbc, Nov. 29, 2007) But on the other hand, prior to the era of light pollution mankind had a strong affirmation to the symbolism of light, as one can detect in the concept of the son of God as the Light of the world. Or… Read more »
wpDiscuz