Humanity Star: Space Disco Ball Will Plunge to a Fiery Death Much Sooner Than Expected

3_21_Humanity Star
The Humanity Star, a glinting carbon fiber ball, sits on a rock. Rocket Lab

U.S. spaceflight startup Rocket Lab stashed a giant glittering disco ball onboard a rocket shuttling commercial satellites into space in mid-January.

Designed to remind stargazers they're just a tiny part of a universe waiting to be explored, the "Humanity Star" was set to shine for nine months.

Now, just two months later, the satellite billed to become the "brightest thing in the sky" is set to fall back down to Earth.

At the time of writing, predicts the glinting globe will re-enter Thursday at about 11 a.m. ET.

Experts have also been tracking the satellite's trajectory, including Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

Here's the plot I made of Humanity Star's rapid orbital decay

— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 20, 2018

The three foot carbon fiber sphere has been subject to "significant atmospheric drag," due to its low surface area and low perigee elliptical orbit, the Humanity Star website explains.

Spiraling closer and closer to Earth, the satellite will completely disintegrate in the planet's atmosphere.

Some astronomers will be celebrating the demise of what many regarded as at best a PR stunt and at worst a piece of light-polluting space garbage.

Wow. Intentionally bright long-term space graffiti. Thanks a lot, @RocketLab.

— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) January 24, 2018

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, on the other hand, had big ambitions for the Humanity Star. He said in a press release: "No matter where you are in the world, or what is happening in your life, everyone will be able to see the Humanity Star in the night sky. For us to thrive and survive, we need to make big decisions in the context of humanity as a whole, not in the context of individuals, organizations or even nations. We must come together as a species to solve the really big issues like climate change and resource shortages."

Not so bright

A bright star for all to see with the naked eye may have been a little ambitious. Back in January, predicted that even by early March the satellite might only reach magnitude 4.6. That's bright enough for a seasoned satellite watcher to spot, but not your average skywatcher, the article stated.

The Humanity Star website now states that at dawn and dusk, "for just a few brief seconds, the Humanity Star will be slightly brighter than the stars alongside it—just enough to draw people's eyes skyward and leave them looking at the night sky long after the satellite has passed."

With just one more dawn and one more dusk before its predicted reentry, you'll have to look hard to catch the last orbits of the Humanity Star.