Solar Sail Photo Contest

So, what’s a solar sail anyways? And what does it do? And where can you find one? NASA’s NanoSail-D2 recently ejected itself from satellite FASTSAT on January 17, 2011 and deployed its sail after three days of floating freely in outer space. The NanoSail-D2 has a mass of 4 kilograms, roughly equivalent to 9 pounds, and its surface area spans a small 110 square feet; this is smaller than the floor space of the average cubicle. NanoSail-D2 is the second solar sail to successfully deploy, and it is the first to orbit the earth. The purpose of this sail will help NASA eliminate space junk in the future. The sails measure drag as the instrument slowly enters the atmospher of earth, which will make it possible to remove future satellites from orbit decreasing the amount of potential space junk dancing around our planet. Because of the instrument’s proximity to earth’s surface, it appears extremely bright in the night sky. Before the instrument disintegrates in April or May of 2011, it will display some rather impressive light shows that will be 10 to 100 times brighter than Venus. NASA is holding a contest to see who can shoot the best shot of this little sail before it dissapears. Cash prizes will be rewarded for the top photos.

The Yuri Gagarin of solar sails.

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