The tool bag floated away while NASA astronauts were performing maintenance on the International Space Station
In addition to tracking the International Space Station, stargazers can now follow a tool bag.
That's right, an astronaut’s tool bag is now orbiting Earth after it floated away while NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara were performing maintenance on the ISS during a spacewalk on Nov. 1.
Per the official NASA blog, the bag — which contained tools that were not needed to complete the maintenance — was spotted by flight controllers using external station cameras as it drifted away.
Astronaut Dr. Meganne Christian shared footage from the moment the bag floated away on X (formerly known as Twitter), revealing that it was last seen by JAXA Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa "while floating over Mount Fuji."
She also quipped, "The 'Orbital Police' can confirm that the lost EVA gear is being tracked."
Now the bag is orbiting the Earth roughly one minute ahead of the ISS, according to author Dave Dickinson, who wrote The Backyard Astronomer’s Field Guide: How to Find the Best Objects the Night Sky has to Offer. As a result, it has joined a list of artificial stars that can be spotted with binoculars or telescopes.
"A tool bag was lost during last week’s EVA to replace a trundle bearing on the port solar alpha array," Dickinson wrote on X. "The object is now listed in the catalog as ID 1998-067WC/58229. The tool bag as a +6th magnitude ‘star’ currently about a minute ahead of the ISS."
Per NASA, the risk of the tool bag connecting with the station "is low and that the onboard crew and space station are safe with no action required."
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That means, for now, the bag will continue to orbit the Earth and will likely remain visible for at least a few months before it harmlessly burns up in the atmosphere.
According to NBC News, skywatchers who are hoping to spot the errant tool bag should first locate the space station using NASA's app. On a clear night, observers with binoculars or a telescope may be able to spot the bag moving slightly ahead of the space station.
The object will look like a dim light moving through the sky just ahead of the fast-moving and much brighter space station.
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