Japan’s JAXA space agency is struggling to figure out what happened to its Astro-H “Hitomi” satellite after it lost contact.
Researchers are now scrambling to try and save the satellite as it spins around above our heads. The kit, which together cost more than a quarter of a billion dollars, had been held as a potential answer to some of the biggest questions of the universe — and is now flying around space, out of control.
Earlier this week an unknown problem with the craft appears to have stopped it from being able to contact Earth. A video then appeared, taken from Earth, showing the satellite spinning around in the sky and apparently out of control.
The team behind the mission have said that they received two very short messages from the satellite, neither of which said very much. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) “has not been able to figure out the state of its health, as the time frames for receiving the signals were very short,” the team said.
A video shot by amateur astronomer Paul Maley (below) shows the satellite flickering as it streaks across the field of view. That likely indicates that the satellite is spinning as sunlight flickers off of its solar panels and other reflective surfaces. “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,” Maley tells National Geographic.