Japan recently lost control of its black hole-hunting satellite, Hitomi, which is capable of searching for traces of X-ray and Gamma ray activity in space. For reasons unexplained, the satellite went from orbiting the Earth naturally and providing scientists with data, to spiraling out of control and losing contact with its home base.
The problem all started on the 26th of March, and following the chaos, scientists began seeing at least five individual objects orbiting around the vicinity of the satellite, suggesting that there was damage or that pieces of the satellite have fallen off of the main body. Details are published in the journal Nature.
Statements regarding the loss of control of the satellite note that it’s not believed the satellite was struck by anything, as there is a very small chance of this happening due to the careful positioning of it in orbit. On the other hand, there is a possibility that some kind of technical malfunction may be to blame for all the ruckus.
The video below, captured by Arizona astronomer Paul Maley, shows the satellite spiraling out of control; you can see the glimmering light that appears from the rotational motions of the satellite:
Despite spiraling out of control, scientists remained diligent to get back in control of the satellite in the hope that it would not be a lost cause. Satellites aren’t cheap, and it costs a whole lot more money to send them into space. Not only that, but losing the satellite would mean missing out on a wide variety of information that could be uncovered about our universe.
Regardless, engineers are working hard to regain control over what’s left of the satellite. This wouldn’t be the first time that JAXA has been able to regain control of a seemingly uncontrollable satellite – they managed to do a similar feat in December.
Assuming the satellite can be brought back under control, there may be hope of salvaging it and continuing to use it. If not, the satellite may end up joining the oodles of space junk that is orbiting our planet.
Source: Yahoo News, BBC