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Communication failure sparks fears for important Japanese astronomy satellite

by • March 27, 2016 • No Comments

There may be trouble in orbit for Japan’s not long ago launched X-ray Astronomy Satellite, “Hitomi” (ASTRO-H). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost touch with Hitomi on Saturday and the presence of debris in the vicinity puts the health of Japan’s flagship spacecraft in question.

In a sayment on Sunday, JAXA said it had attained a short signal of the satellite, but “has not been able-bodied to figure out the say of health of the satellite” and was continuing to investigate the communication failure.

The brief sayment of the space agency was created additional ominous by a report of the US Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks man-created objects in orbit. The office synonymous what it calls a “breakup” of Hitomi on Saturday, which include identifying five pieces of debris which have apparently separated of the spacecraft.

“The pieces may be blown off insulation of an over-pressure event in one of the instruments,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who works on other X-ray satellites which include Chandra, said on Twitter Sunday. “‘Debris’ does not mean Hitomi’s in little pieces. It means little pieces have come off it. Satellite can be all but intact,we don’t know.”

McDowell said it is too early to write the satellite’s obituary, but he is not optimistic of its fate.

Hitomi launched in February with development assist of NASA and other space agencies. The space observatory carries four X-ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors created to appear for clues to the origins of the universe and its many mysterious objects, like black holes.

For additional details on Hitomi, check out the promotional video of JAXA below:

Sources: JAXA, Twitter(1), (2)

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