Summary: NanoSail-D is the first-ever solar sail to orbit our planet. Launched in Nov. 2010, the sail is now in a decaying orbit that should bring it back to Earth, meteor-style, as early as April 2011. Meanwhile, it is drawing attention to itself in the night sky by flickering and flaring as sunlight glints off its reflective fabric. NASA: Solar Sail Stunner, Watch Out for Solar Sail Flares  
  Photographer, Location Images Photographer's Comments

Peter Rosén,
Stockholm, Sweden
Feb 4, 2011

33 MB Quicktime movie,

zoomed still image

I photographed NanoSail-D from Stockholm, Sweden, on Feb. 4th. The sail was very low on the horizon, but I was able to catch it using my Canon EOS 5D digital camera. I estimate its magnitude between +6 and +7.

There are many other satellites in the field of view and some airplanes coming in for landing at the local airport. NanoSail-D behaves very differently from other satellites as its visibility seems to pulsate in short flashes sometimes several per second. This image zooms in on the phenomenon. I wonder if it due to small changes in the sail's direction and thus reflectivity?

Photo details: Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 85/1.2 lens wide open @ 1.2, 55 one-sec exposures at ISO 3200.

Vesa Vauhkonen,
Rautalampi, Finland
Jan. 30, 2011
#1, #2

I took a set of digital images of Nano-Sail-D on 30rd of January 2011 in Rautalampi in Middle-Finland. I took 30 sec expositions of a flare 17:27:52 to 17:33:31 UTC. The sail moved from WNW to NNE, having max. altitude of 28 degrees. The max. magnitude was +3.5. I combined the photos without and with aligning the stars. Nikon D70S, 18 mm/f/3,5, ISO 1600. 30 sec expositions. 'Nanopurje' means Nanosail.

Esko Lyytinen,
Finland, Helsinki
Jan. 30, 2011
#1, #2

NanoSail-D on a Fireball-Cam

I got, as a surprise, the NanoSail-D2 on my fireball camera. This is 2 minute a peak-hold image made with computer from real time video data with the camera: It is taken at 17:32-17:34 UT. Vega (about the same magnitude as N.S. maximum) is seen to the lower left in the image and Ursa Major at rigth. Polaris up center. The second image is a comparison "screen copy" from Heavens Above. Times in it are for timezone UT+2.

Enzo De Bernardini,
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Jan. 27, 2011

Moon-NanoSail Conjunction!

I caught NanoSail-D crossing the vicinity of the waning moon in a one-second exposure. The satellite has low magnitude (i.e., it is dim), and so the image was enhanced considerably. Slight cloudiness present. The published orbital elements are accurate, the conjunction took place at exactly predicted time. Used a Canon EOS 300D camera at ISO-800, and 80 mm F/5 refractor telescope. Processed with PixInsight.

more images: from Mika Järvinen of Finland; from Arto Oksanen of Jyväskylä, Finland