Amateur sky watcher finds a long silent NASA science satellite talking again

Scott Tilley, an “amateur visual and radio astronomer”, recently discovered that a NASA science satellite that went silent in 2005 had begun transmitting again: Amateur astronomer discovers a revived NASA satellite | Science/AAAS

The astronomer, Scott Tilley, spends his free time following the radio signals from spy satellites. On this occasion, he was searching in high-Earth orbit for evidence of Zuma, a classified U.S. satellite that’s believed to have failed after launch. But rather than discovering Zuma, Tilley picked up a signal from a satellite labeled “2000-017A,” which he knew corresponded to NASA’s IMAGE satellite. Launched in 2000 and then left for dead in December 2005, the $150 million mission was back broadcasting. It just needed someone to listen.

Scientists who had worked previously on the IMAGE ( Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) project are hoping to resume their studies with the satellite, which had been quite productive:

Prior to its failure, IMAGE was already considered a successful mission. The half-ton satellite’s instruments served as a sort of telescope, providing a global view of charged particles captured in Earth’s magnetic field. IMAGE’s instruments captured energetic neutral particles ejected by collisions of atoms in the inner magnetosphere, creating a broad-scale picture of that region and its interactions with the sun. It’s a capability that has never been replaced, Reiff says. “It is really invaluable for now-casting space weather and really understanding the global response of the magnetosphere to solar storms.”

During its extended mission, however, IMAGE’s signal winked out just before Christmas in 2005. The mission had been working perfectly up to that point; NASA eventually attributed the loss to a misfire of the controller providing power to the satellite’s transponder. It remained possible, however, that IMAGE could reset itself during points in its orbit when Earth eclipsed its solar panels for an extended time, draining its batteries. Such eclipses occurred last year—and 5 years ago—perhaps triggering its rebirth.

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Catch sight of “The Humanity Star” while it is in orbit

The Electron rocket launched last weekend from New Zealand by Rocket Lab had an unannounced payload aboard in addition to three small commercial spacecraft.  The Humanity Star is a

a bright, blinking satellite now orbiting Earth, visible to the naked eye in the night sky. Launched on #StillTesting, The Humanity Star is designed to encourage everyone to look up and consider our place in the universe. 

More about the project:

Visible from space with the naked eye, the Humanity Star is a highly reflective satellite that blinks brightly across the night sky to create a shared experience for everyone on the planet.

Created by Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck, the Humanity Star is a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels. It spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars.

Orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes and visible from anywhere on the globe, the Humanity Star is designed to be a bright symbol and reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe.

The sphere will stay in orbit for about 9 months. You can use the tracking app on the website to find when it will pass over your location.


Master Replicas Group captures Tycho Crater and Olympus Mons in resin

Master Replicas uses 3D printing, hand painting, and other techniques to produce finely detailed models. Here is a video on how they created a replica of the Moon’s Tycho Crater, the first in their Space Terrains line:

Other space related products


Audio: Remembering Ursula Le Guin

Popular writer Ursula K. Le Guin, known particularly for her many works in science fiction and fantasy, passed away this week. A reader points me to this report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) about Le Guin: … Ursula K. Le Guin Remembered … | OPB

And here is an interview with Le Guin in 2015: The Archive Project – Ursula K. Le Guin . Radio | OPB –