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ISS TOOLBAG

Thu, 04/15/2010 - 7:23am
mosesofmason3

When Endeavour astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper dropped her toolbag during a spacewalk on Nov. 18th and it floated away, mission controllers probably thought they'd seen the last of it. Think again. Amateur astronomers have been monitoring the backpack-sized toolbag as it circles Earth not very far from the International Space Station. After sunset on Nov. 22nd, Edward Light saw the bag using 10x50 binoculars as it sailed over his backyard in Lakewood, New Jersey. "It was quite a favorable 70-deg pass in clear skies," he says. "The visual magnitude of the bag was about +6.4 plus or minus half a magnitude." On the same night, Keven Fetter of Brockville, Ontario, video-recorded the bag zipping past the 4th-magnitude star eta Pisces. "It was easily 8th magnitude or brighter," says Fetter. This week the toolbag is making a series of passes over Europe; late next week it will return to the evening skies of North America. Using binoculars, look for it flying a few minutes ahead of the ISS. Spaceweather's satellite tracker is monitoring both the space station and the tool bag.

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