You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a piece of modern sculpture. But in fact you’re looking one of NASA’s old Vanguard satellites, photographed at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1958.
The first ever solar-powered satellite, Vanguard 1 launched on March 17th 1958. Its purposes was exploratory: to test the launch vehicle that took it into space, and the effects of the environment on a satellite and its systems in Earth orbit. In fact, it was only the second US satellite to be put into orbit — Explorer 1 preceded it — but perhaps the nicest part of the story is that it still orbits Earth, the oldest artificial object to do so. And damn if it didn’t do all that with style. [NASA]