February 4, 1993. A few hours just before dawn, a pale silvery light about as bright as the full moon, 5km in diameter, was seen across Europe, “starting at southern France through Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and finally [disappearing] in the early sunlight in Byelorussia.” Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day, so there were not that many ground witnesses. Nevertheless, there were some who reported seeing a momentary flash of that light.
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
The spotlight came from a large reflector that was launched into orbit by the Russian Federal Space Agency, some three months earlier from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Called Znamya, which means “banner” or “flag” in Russian, the satellite was an experiment to study the feasibility of using space mirrors to illuminate the nightside of the planet using the sun’s rays, pretty much the same “way a schoolchild playing with a hand mirror learns to reflect a spot of light from a bright window into the crannies of his room,” as The New York Times explained in a 1993 article.
Learn more about the Znamya space mirror over at the Amusing Planet.
(Image Credit: Amusing Planet)