Japanese Satellite Hitomi Is Lost in Space

Tuesday, 29 March 2016 - 3:07PM
Astronomy
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 - 3:07PM
Japanese Satellite Hitomi Is Lost in Space
Japan just lost contact with their newest satellite, Hitomi. The satellite, whose name means "pupil of the eye" was supposed to contact Earth at 3:40am on Saturday morning, but it failed to establish consistent communication and JAXA has been scrambling to find out what happened ever since.

Hitomi was designed to observe energy wavelengths from X-Rays to gamma rays in order to detect astrophysical phenomena such as supermassive black holes, neutron stars, and galaxy clusters. It was launched in the middle of February, and while JAXA isn't quite sure of its current state, but they fear that the satellite might have broken apart in space. The space agency has observed five pieces of floating debris in the area surrounding the satellite, and in a recent tweet, classified the incident as a "breakup." 

However, there's a chance that the satellite is intact, and has just been knocked out of its intended orbit. It is unknown how big those pieces of debris are, and there's a possibility they are just small pieces of insulation. And while consistent communication has been lost, there has been an intermittent signal coming from the craft that is consistent with the satellite tumbling through space. This thesis is supported by a video from observational astronomer Paul Maley, which was taken from Arizona:


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"If the satellite were not tumbling, it would appear to be the same brightness," Paul Maley, a former NASA flight controller, told National Geographic. "The fact that it is rotating with extreme variations in brightness indicates that it is not controlled and that some event caused it to begin its rotation."
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So while it doesn't look good for Japan's newest satellite, all hope is not lost. Some JAXA scientists still believe that contact can be re-established with the craft and that Hitomi can be saved.

Science
Space
Astronomy

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