November 26, 2008

Astronomers hope to see orbiting tool bag

British amateur astronomers say they have a new challenge -- spotting an astronaut's lost tool bag orbiting the Earth, to be visible until early next month.

The backpack-sized object was lost by astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper during a space walk last week and should be visible from Britain with a reasonably strong telescope or pair of binoculars through the first days of December, astronomers told The Times of London.

The best opportunities for British stargazers to spot the tool bag, which is 250 miles above the Earth and traveling at 15,000 mph, would be early Wednesday evening and on Friday, the newspaper said. On Wednesday it was expected to be in the southern sky at a 72-degree angle to the horizon and on Friday at a 77-degree angle.

It's fascinating seeing something that is tiny and has been thrown overboard, Robin Scagell of the Society for Popular Astronomy told The Times. It's totally different from anything up in the sky. You can't learn anything from it but there is the fascination of knowing what it is and seeing it with your own eyes.