Reflective Russian Satellite Will Be the Brightest 'Star' in the Night Sky

The satellite may shine as bright as the moon. European Southern Observatory/flickr

The night sky may soon be lit by an entirely man-made "star." A team of Russian engineers have reached their fundraising goal for sending a satellite into space that will be so reflective it will become the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon, reports Russia Today.

The satellite will have no other purpose than to glow like an intense star. While it's sure to be the highlight of romantic late-night rendezvous the world over, the project has attracted its share of ire from the scientific community. The gleaming spacecraft could be so bright that it will pollute the night sky, making space observations more difficult. The additional light in the sky could have other unforeseen ecological effects as well.

Nearly $20,000 was raised on the crowdfunding site Boomstarter to send the so-called “Mayak” (which translates as "beacon" in English) satellite into orbit. The tiny space capsule is no larger than a loaf of bread, but once it reaches its desired altitude, it will unfurl into an impressive pyramid-shaped reflector. It will be in a sun-synchronous orbit 370 miles above the ground, which will ensure that it's always in the sunlight and thus always shining at some vantage point above the Earth.

"We want to show that space exploration is something exciting and interesting, but most importantly that today it is accessible to everybody who is interested," project leader Alexander Shaenko told Sputnik News.

That educational message might end up being counterproductive, however, if the satellite causees problems for those who are actually exploring space. Astronomers go through a lot of effort to avoid light pollution to get the best views, and this satellite could make their efforts more difficult.

Either way, the good news is that the obstruction will only be temporary. It's unclear exactly how long the satellite will remain in stable orbit, but it's unlikely to last for more than several weeks. Of course, if the project is a big hit, it could lead to future copycat schemes, though perhaps some regulations would be in order in that case.

The satellite is scheduled for launch in mid-2016.