Turn your eyes skyward in the evening hours anytime over the next nine months and you might just spy the world's first giant orbiting disco ball.
More elegantly known as the "Humanity Star," this three-foot-wide, carbon-fiber geodesic sphere is fitted with 65 reflective panels. As it spins around Earth at speeds of over 30,000 feet per second, it should reflect enough of the sun's light to briefly make it the brightest object in the night sky.
The unusual satellite is the brainchild of Peter Beck, CEO of the U.S. aerospace company Rocket Lab. On Jan. 21, the company successfully launched three commercial satellites and the previously-undisclosed Humanity Star on its Electron two-stage rocket from a launch pad in New Zealand.
On a website detailing the artificial star, Beck waxed philosophical about the idea behind his pet project.
"Humanity is finite, and we won't be here forever," he states. "Yet in the face of this almost inconceivable insignificance, humanity is capable of great and kind things when we recognize we are one species, responsible for the care of each other, and our planet, together."
"The Humanity Star is to remind us of this," he added. "No matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace, everyone will be able to see the bright, blinking Humanity Star orbiting Earth in the night sky. My hope is that everyone looking up at the Humanity Star will look past it to the expanse of the universe, feel a connection to our place in it and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important."
Pretty lofty, right? Chances are instead, most people are going to look up, see this bright thing gliding by, and openly debate whether it's the International Space Station, aliens, or some new stunt from Elon Musk.
Whatever reaction is stirred by the Humanity Star, we collectively won't have long to ponder its true meaning. According to Beck, the satellite will de-orbit and burn up in the atmosphere some nine months from now. Those interested in catching a glimpse of this celestial disco ball can track its orbit here.