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News that geeks can read with the help of bounced light.

Artist's depiction of the deployed space mirror

Cosmonauts on the Mir Space Station attempted to bounce sunlight off of a 25 metre wide reflector down to Earth, to light up the dark Russian wInter skies. The attempt was scheduled for February 4th, but a glitch prevented deployment of the mirror. The experiment, funded by a collection of Russian companies, hopes to use larger mirrors to illuminate construction sites, disaster areas, create a perk-me-up for light-deprived Siberians, and bug the hell out of astronomer geeks.

Unfortunately, the experiment failed when the mirror refused to unfold. After several hours of frustration, the mirror assembly was eventually put out with the garbage. It and a cargo vessel full of junk were cast off over the ocean and incinerated on re-entry.

If the cosmonauts had succeeded, the reflected beams would have been about 5-7 kilometers wide. The beam of light was expected to last about 10 minutes, looking like an extremely bright star, perhaps even being 5-10 times the brightness of the full moon!

Of course, all this talk about mirrors in the sky is causing great stress among astronomers, who already have to deal with a bright moon for half the month, and all the other space junk orbiting Earth, reflecting sunlight and spoiling their views and photographs of the night sky.

Those laser pointers were just the beginning...


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