An amateur astronomer in British Columbia has made a discovery that has gained the attention of NASA.
Scott Tilley, a 47-year-old electrical technologist, sneaks away time from his family when he could search for spy satellites utilizing radio frequency signals and a contraption of remote control cameras and antennas on the roof of his Roberts Creek home on the Sunshine Coast.
He had been sleuthing through space on Jan. 20 when he discovered something unusual.
A sign led him to discover a satellite named IMAGE, or Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration.
NASA established the science stunt in 2000 to picture the Earth’s magnetosphere and produce images of plasma inhabitants. But contact with the probe was lost in 2005 and the assignment was abandoned in 2007.
“Everybody thought that it was d**d,” explains Tilley. ” It was no longer speaking anymore and it had been only a part of space junk.”
He states the sign he discovered showed the satellite was living. Plus it was sending data.
With the support of friend and fellow astronomer Cees Bassa, Tilley calculated that IMAGE had been trying to call home for more than a year. However, its messages were lost among the din of other chattering satellites.
Tilley was thrilled about the finding and wrote about it on his blog and about Twitter. He delivered NASA a message but got no reply.
It wasn’t until a few days afterwards, when he achieved to some scientist who had grown IMAGE, when the frenzy erupted.
“I had dozens of emails from all the different researchers and individuals who have been included in IMAGE plus they were very enthusiastic,” says Tilley.
Then he heard from a mission manager at NASA and gladly shared his information.
A news release NASA’s site this week affirmed that IMAGE was discovered by an unnamed astronomer. “The NASA team was able to read a few standard housekeeping data from the spacecraft, indicating that the principal management process is operational,” it said.
Scientists and engineers from the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland would be to examine its data during the following two weeks, NASA additional, but the satellite age poses an issue.
“The kinds of hardware and operating systems utilized in the IMAGE Mission Operations Center no longer exist, along with other programs have been updated several versions beyond what they had been in the moment, requiring substantial reverse-engineering.”
The discovery has also been cited in Science journal.
Tilley says he hasn’t been given a job with NASA — although he’d jump at the chance. But he’s happy knowing that NASA would cooperate with a Canadian who has been hunting space since he was a child by petty with his father’s short-wave radio.
“I’m appreciative of the fact that these very talented folks doing an awesome job for every one of us would be receptive enough to hear someone just out of their sound.”
The Canadian Press
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