Astronomers around the world have reacted furiously to a New Zealand-based space company's decision to launch what has been described as a 'giant disco ball' into orbit.
Kiwi space exploration start-up Rocket Lab launched the object from its remote private launch site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula last week.
The company has named the three-foot-wide carbon sphere a 'Humanity Star' and said its 65 highly reflective panels will catch the sun’s light and make it visible in the night sky from anywhere on the planet.
It is expected to be the brightest object in the night sky for the next nine months - at which point it will re-enter the atmosphere and crash back to earth.
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) January 21, 2018
Rocket Lab have said the sphere is intended to “create a shared experience for everyone on the planet.”
The plan has been celebrated by some as a fun welcomed as a fun way to drum up interest in space by many enthusiasts - however scientists around the world have also voiced their anger at what has been labelled "long term space graffiti."
high levels of light pollution are already a real problem for astronomers around the world - and scientist have warned that there is already a huge amount of space junk in orbit that can cause major problems for satellite launches.
Introducing The Humanity Star - a bright, blinking satellite now orbiting Earth, visible to the naked eye in the night sky. Launched on #StillTesting, The Humanity Star is designed to encourage everyone to look up and consider our place in the universe. Website coming soon pic.twitter.com/wvIEcXelVk
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) January 24, 2018
— Caleb Scharf (@caleb_scharf) January 25, 2018
This morning, Dr Gbenga Oduntan, an expert in space law at the Kent Law School warned the launch is "in a sense both a reflection of western scientific imperialism and the arrogance of contemporary mankind."
"Since one of its principal aims is to shine and reflect sunlight back to earth simply for fun it constitutes clearly light pollution and a form of legal nuisance," he said.
"The real danger lies in the fact that hundreds and perhaps thousands of such ego trips will be launched across dozens of campuses and among space enthusiasts in the following years creating an endless circle of space junk."
— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) January 24, 2018