Earlier this month, two astronauts were on a repair mission outside the International Space Station (ISS) when they dropped a tool bag. While it’s easy to think spotting the dropped object from space could be a bit tricky, with the help of a telescope, it’s now been photographed in action.
The image of the tool bag was captured on November 15 by Gianluca Masi, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project. “The image above comes from a single 2-second exposure, unfiltered, remotely taken with the ARTEC250+Paramount ME+C3Pro61000EC robotic unit,” said Masi in a statement.
“The telescope tracked the extremely fast, 1,000 [inches per second], apparent motion of the bag. The object looks like a sharp dot of light in the center, as the telescope tracked it, so stars left long trails on the background.”
The tool bag is reflective, making it easier to spot when the Sun’s light is shining on it, despite its small size. As a result, the bag can even be spotted with a pair of binoculars by following the path ahead of the ISS, although you’ll need clear and relatively dark skies to do so.
It was dropped during a repair mission on November 1, when astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara were replacing an element of the station’s solar arrays. Luckily, they’d already finished the job when the mishap occurred, and the tools weren’t needed for the remainder of the spacewalk.
NASA also stated at the time that “Mission Control analyzed the bag’s trajectory and determined that risk of recontacting the station is low and that the onboard crew and space station are safe with no action required.”
Since it was dropped, the tool bag has been gradually appearing farther away from the ISS as it rapidly loses altitude. If you’re now concerned that an outer space tool bag might suddenly fall on your head, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s likely the bag will stick around in orbit for a few more months, gradually losing height until it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.