Japan Loses Contact with Hitomi Space Telescope

Only a month after the launch of their newest ASTRO-H X-ray telescope, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have reported that contact has been lost with the satellite. Currently, engineers at JAXA are working on reestablishing contact with the telescope but the reason for it going dark is unknown.

The ASTRO-H satellite was launched from Tanegashima Space Centre on the 17th of February and upon successfully achieving orbit, was given the name Hitomi, which means “Eye”. Hitomi seemed to be successfully up and running initially, having passed its system checks and was beginning to deploy equipment. Unfortunately, by the 26th of March, JAXA had reported a communications failure with the satellite, stating only that “While the cause of communication anomaly is under investigation, JAXA received a short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery.”

“Under this circumstance, JAXA set up emergency headquarters, headed by the President, for recovery and investigation. The headquarters held its first meeting today, inand has been working for recovery and the investigation of the cause.”

According to the US Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), who specialize in tracking large orbital objects, Hitomi broke up partially on the 26th of March, but no further details were given. This could be critical, or simply some of the satellite’s components becoming separated from the main unit.

On the Visual Satellite Observers mailing list, Texan astronomer Paul Maley reported that he had managed to track the telescope a day after contact was lost and recorded that it was spinning in a full rotation every 10 seconds. As the satellite is supposed to be in a stable orbit, this is not a good sign, and the rotation would make the communication array unable to send and receive signals until the orbit is stabilized.

There are a number of possible causes for Hitomi’s current situation, and while none of them are yet confirmed, JAXA is working around the clock to re-establish contact with the telescope and determine the cause of this issue.

JAXA to Launch Astro-H X-Ray Satellite

This Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be launching their new X-Ray observatory satellite into space, where it will observe space phenomena such as black holes and galaxy clusters. This is the sixth of its kind to be launched by JAXA and will be carrying a number of scientific tools and monitors along with it, with monitors able to detect X-rays as many as 10 times fainter than predecessor satellite, Suzaku.

The main instrument equipped aboard Astro-H is the Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (SXS), fitted with a “microcalorimeter.” Built in cooperation between Goddard and a number of Japanese research institutions, the spectrometer will make use of the addition in order to detect and measure the colours of X-rays. Two other SXS telescopes will also be aboard, equipped with NASA Goddard built mirror assemblies designed to pick up on X-rays as weak as 300 electron volts. These mirrors work in concert with the other onboard instruments, one dedicated to directing light into a wide-field camera in order to record images and the other directing light into the SXS devices, which are required to be kept at -459.58 degrees Fahrenheit due to cooling from liquid helium.

Joining the Soft X-Ray instruments, Astro-H also carries an array of Hard X-Ray imagers with a detection range of 5 to 80 KeV. The last of the tools is a pair of Soft Gamma-ray Detectors (SGDs) which add coverage of low energy gamma-rays to the imaging suite. These SGDs are capable of recording in the energy range of 60 to 600 KeV.

During its lifespan, Astro-H will be dedicated to finding and imaging materials entering black holes and other high-energy and X-ray emitting phenomena. With black holes currently making headlines, it will be fascinating to see what this new observatory will allow astronomers to discover and further unravel the mysteries of the universe. The launch will even by live streamed on Youtube by JAXA, which is currently scheduled to be at 5:45-6:30 p.m JST (08:45 GMT) for those avid space fans.

Image via NASA/JAXA

Scientsits Find a Way to Wirelessly Transmit Energy across 55 Meters

Japanese scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have announced that they have been successful in transmitting energy wirelessly and with high accuracy, being able to microwave 1.8 kilowatts (just enough to heat a kettle) over a distance of 55 meters.

“This was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate directivity control device,” a spokesperson for JAXA stated.

Before getting too excited, there is still a long way to go from here. The scientists’ ultimate goal is to set up solar satellites around 36,000 km of Earth’s surface in order to harness the Sun’s power and beam it back to the Earth’s surface via antennae. This means that, if proven successful, we could be looking at an unlimited energy solution. However, there is still a matter of taking everything from the planning stage to the actual application phase… and that takes time.

“But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology – maybe in the 2040s or later,” the spokesperson stated. “There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them.”

Even so, given that the experiment will eventually take place and be successful, we are looking at one of the most important technological breakthroughs in human history.

Thank you Science Alert for providing us with this information