Astronauts Lost a Tool Bag on a Spacewalk and You Can See It With Binoculars

(NationalUSNews.com) — A celestial wanderer of an unusual kind has caught the eye of stargazers, having made an unexpected escape from the International Space Station (ISS) during a recent spacewalk. This wanderer is not a comet or asteroid but rather a tool bag that has become an unlikely star of the show in Earth’s orbit.

Adding themselves to the ranks of stars, planets, and galaxies as objects of fascination for astronomers is a humble tool bag that is unexpectedly shining brightly in the expanse of space. This unusual spectacle occurred when NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli lost hold of the tool bag during a spacewalk on November 2, 2023.

The tool bag, officially classified as a crew lock bag, is now leisurely circling our planet, just a smidge ahead of the International Space Station (ISS). As reported by EarthSky, the brightness of the bag in the night sky is approximately a visual magnitude of 6, slightly dimmer than Uranus, our solar system’s seventh planet. As such, although the bag may not be visible to the naked eye, it should be a clear target for those equipped with binoculars.

If you’re intrigued to catch a glimpse of this space-faring tool bag, you’ll first need to track the passing of the ISS over your location (there’s even a handy new app from NASA to assist with this). The tool bag should be visible about two to four minutes before the space station comes into view. However, the bag’s time in the spotlight will be short-lived, as it’s expected to disintegrate once it descends to about 70 miles (113 kilometers) above Earth.

A reserve astronaut with the European Space Agency (ESA), Meganne Christian, shared a video capturing a tool bag slipping away from astronaut Moghbeli. As of her latest update, the bag was last spotted by Crew-7 astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, floating high above Japan’s Mount Fuji.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, shared on social media that the tool bag’s orbit is approximately 258 by 258 miles (415 by 416 kilometers). He also noted that it had been officially designated as 58229 / 1998–067WC in the U.S. space force catalog of artificial objects in orbit.

The tool bag has thus joined other remnants of human space exploration, known collectively as space junk, that include everything from shuttle debris to defunct satellites. Interestingly, this isn’t the first tool bag to boldly go where no tool bag has gone before. NASA astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a tool bag while trying to fix a gear that had jammed on an ISS solar panel in 2008, which also went on to circle our planet.

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