Alum’s ‘space junk’ is visible from Earth

On July 23, 2007, Iowa State University engineering alum and astronaut Clay Anderson threw an obsolete, refrigerator-sized early ammonia servicer (EAS) reservoir overboard from the International Space Station (ISS). The 1,400-pound piece of space junk has been circling Earth ever since and now its orbit has decayed so much that it has become an easy naked-eye target for backyard sky watchers, according to an article on spaceweather.com. The EAS, the article says, is almost as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper and growing brighter as it descends. It is expected to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere late this year or early in 2009. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times.

Anderson, who earned his MS in aerospace engineering in 1983, is Iowa State’s first astronaut. His assignment onboard the ISS began in June 2007 and included three spacewalks. His mission was successfully completed when he returned to Earth in November of 2007.