Orbital Reflector

Dear all,

after some time off we’re back – with some art:

On 3 December, Orbital Reflector (ORS-1) was launched aboard a Falcon-9 rocket, and will continue to orbit Earth for about two months. Orbital reflector is a  temporary satellite which does neither serve any scientific nor technical purpose. Rather, the installation designed by Trevor Paglen and the Nevada Museum of Art is supposed to stimulate contemplation:

“As the twenty-first century unfolds and gives rise to unsettled global tensions, Orbital Reflector encourages all of us to look up at the night sky with a renewed sense of wonder, to consider our place in the universe, and to reimagine how we live together on this planet.”

The launch of such nonfunctional satellites is not without controversy (see e.g. the criticism of Humanity Star), especially among astronomers and astrophotographers. According to critics, there are several other bright satellites in Earth’s orbit that are visible to the naked eye while actually serving a useful function (most notably ISS) instead of being mere space garbage.

However, I shall leave it to the kind reader (particularly the stargazers among them) to conceive an opinion on this topic.


Photo Credit: James Lee: 91 Minutes of the Night Sky , CC BY 2.0

About This Author

Matthias studied Environmental Information Management at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and holds a PhD in environmental statistics. The focus of his thesis was on the statistical modelling of rare (extreme) events as a basis for vulnerability assessment of critical infrastructure. He is working at the Austrian national weather and geophysical service (ZAMG) and at the Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering at BOKU University. He currently focuses the (statistical) assessment of adverse weather events and natural hazards, and disaster risk reduction. His main interests are statistical modelling of environmental phenomena as well as open source tools for data science, geoinformation and remote sensing.

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