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

by Nancy Atkinson on March 20, 2009

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

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


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.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Venkatesh March 23, 2009 at 2:19 AM

Well, I do not know whether this is a good news. Not so far into the future we may have many space stations similar to ISS. If every one of them is going to be as bright, ,if not brighter, than Venus, will it not be a light pollution from space??!!. How does it help astronomers to have several bright man made objects in sky.

Future space station designs have to address this.

dollhopf March 23, 2009 at 2:52 AM

I remember that guy in the street here with his box full of Eclipse glasses in August 1999. How easy it is to make money with the curiosity of the people. He took twice of the regular price for one piece. He could also have written books on it. Because there was a run on that event.

There is some money linked to the new brightness of the ISS also, because there is curiosity linked to that new light in the sky.

Martin, some posters here seem to love an occult sky. How obscure! ;) Better “let your light shine”.

Martin March 23, 2009 at 6:24 AM

Martin, some posters here seem to love an occult sky. How obscure! ;) Better “let your light shine” ;)”.

I note you wink dollhopf, though I’m on the side of the forces of darkness here. Our obsession with light and eradicating any corner of darknes no doubt stem from primordial fear of darkness but also extendeds through human hubris to crassly leave our stamp on everything everywhere without thought of deletrious affects on the environment and on a our health.

When I turn the lights down in the planetarium for my groups and a rural starry sky emerges on the dome I always hear sighs of wonder as if a kind of contemplative peace descends upon the audience. There is something deeper going here here. An unpolluted starry sky stirs up something relaxing within the psyche that overcomes that crude primordial fear of the dark.

As some of the posts indicate here we have lost this sensitivey to the night sky and are addiced to “banishing the dark” and thereby mindlessly destorying our natural hertige – the starry sky that gave us the astronomy and the science that we all love some much here in the first place.

It would be sad if the only experience of a dark starry sky was left to a planetarium.

dollhopf March 23, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Dear Martin,

yes I know. Some discotheques in the area have a sort of

Flakscheinwerfer-Batterie on their roofs, swirling pillars of light against

the sky, not dissimilar to the fingers of searchlights of antiaircraft guns in former wars. It is indeed impossible to see a True Night Sky in these highly populated

places here in the contemporary Rhineland.

And you are so right! That there is also that longing you mentioned! I felt a deep

joy in my heart last time when the true colors of the sky ruled true darkness, but you nevertheless might not believe how also the barking of some wild dogs nearby did scare me in the hills of Crete, while I was all alone in untouched night. It enunciated “Beware!”. Yes, darkness is a mistery to the soul but a source of self-knowledge about cowardliness likewise.

dollhopf March 23, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Maybe I should apologize to all native speakers of English here from time to time.

(btw: the use of the neologism “poster” meant nothing else but the “brief description” of somebody who posts to an internet forum. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

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