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Russian satellite could become brightest object in night sky

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On July 14, a Russian Soyuz-2-1v rocket launched a major satellite along with a series of small cubesat satellites.

The special satellite — which is the size of a loaf of bread — is called Mayak and may become one of the brightest objects in the sky!

Mayak — which is Russian for “beacon of light” — was funded by $30,000 in private donations to increase awareness of private space ventures. The satellite was part of a special research project from Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University.

The unique spacecraft will deploy large tetrahedron-shaped reflectors, each with a surface area of some 43 square feet that will make it very bright and easy to see as it orbits some 300 miles above Earth.

Some claimed Mayak may become as bight as the planet Venus, the brightest of the major planets, or be as bright as a full moon.

Astronomers around the world were concerned about the brightness of Mayak, as it may interfere with observations by the largest telescopes on Earth.

Mayak will be in orbit for at least the next few weeks. Though many hope to see it in the night sky, it will favor those in further northern or southern latitudes. It may be visible from Arizona.

Toward the end of the satellite’s life, it may tumble and provide a dazzling light show to observers on Earth.

July skies offer something for everyone! Get you very own Dr. Sky July star chart.

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