Page last updated at 00:24 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Astronaut's lost bag over north

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Lost tool bag. Pic: AP/Nasa
The tool bag drifts away from the International Space Station

A tool bag lost by astronauts working on the International Space Station should be visible from the Highlands this week, according to astronomers.

Some members of Highlands Astronomical Society hope to catch a glimpse of the kit which came loose and drifted away last month.

The website Heavens Above has given predictions of where to look out for the bag.

They said it should be visible using binoculars or a telescope.

Maarten de Vries, of Highlands Astronomical Society, said that at its brightest the object was about as bright as the planet Neptune.

However, because the bag is moving rapidly against the "fixed" stars in the night sky, it should be easily identified when seen in a telescope.

The kit, reportedly worth 70,000, has been moving ahead of the space station (ISS) and according to Heavens Above should be visible over the Highlands until about 10 December.

Mr de Vries said half a dozen members hoped to track the object, if skies were clear enough, over the next few days.

The bag is estimated to be more than 200 miles above the Earth and travelling at 15,000mph.

Grease guns

Last month, astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper watched helplessly as the bag drifted away from her as she serviced the solar array system on the orbiting platform.

The briefcase-sized tool bag is one of the largest items ever lost on a spacewalk.

The event happened during the first spacewalk of the latest shuttle flight to the ISS, which was intended to give the orbiting platform a major makeover.

Ms Stefanyshyn-Piper's slip occurred as she was greasing a rotary joint on the station's giant starboard solar array system. The joint had been unable to automatically point the solar wings toward the Sun for maximum energy production for over a year.

Just as she was finishing the job, the tool bag became untethered from a larger kit case and floated away along with a pair of grease guns, wipes and a putty knife.

She reached out, but to no avail.

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