Space Mystery: Japan’s $273 Million “Black Hole” Satellite Has Vanished


Japan claims its “Black Hole” satellite Hitomi was “essential” to solving the mysteries of the universe, but now the satellite itself is the mystery, as Gizmodo explains it has just up and disappeared, “leaving behind only an ominous trail of debris and some cryptic messages”:

Hitomi was launched back on February 17 by Japan’s Space Agency. It was a full-scale X-ray observatory, much of the equipment of which came from NASA, which was intended to do everything from exploring some of the mysteries of black holes to teaching us about the early evolution of galaxies. It was to be, in the words of JAXA, “the essential mission to solve mysteries of the universe in X-rays.” Then, something — an explosion, a collision or something else entirely — changed Hitomi’s course.

Things were initially looking so good after launch that JAXA renamed the satellite previously known just as ASTRO-H to Hitomi. “Hitomi refers to the aperture of the eye, the part where incoming light is absorbed,” the agency explained. “From this, Hitomi reminds us of a black hole. We will observe Hitomi in the universe using the Hitomi satellite.”

Hitomi was due to wake-up and start responding to ground communications this weekend. But then the Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks debris in our orbit, announced that they’d seen pieces of the satellite breaking up into space on Saturday. Things got even more complicated when JAXA confirmed early this morning that, well after the debris was spotted, they’d also been able to receive messages from Hitomi.

While Japan still hopes to recover its satellite, chances are looking pretty slim.

And NASA has pretty much shown it cannot be trusted ever. After the agency cut the live ISS transmission feed earlier this week following a bizarre horseshoe shaped object’s appearance over Earth’s horizon, the whole thing begs the question…

What’s really going on up there?

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