An amateur astronomer on January 20, 2018 recorded observations of a satellite in high Earth orbit. This satellite was a long-lost NASA satellite- Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite.
The amateur astronomer came across the satellite through signals. Engineers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center used NASA's Deep Space Network which consists of a series of ground-based radio telescopes to study the signals, only to discover that these signals were from the IMAGE satellite.
The signal showed that the space craft ID was 166- the ID for IMAGE. The NASA team was able to read some basic housekeeping data from the spacecraft, suggesting that at least the main control system is operational.
Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will continue to try to analyze the data from the spacecraft to learn more about the state of the spacecraft.
About IMAGE satellite
• The Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite was launched in March 2000, and exceeded its initial two-year mission by operating through 2005.
• However, NASA controllers lost contact with the satellite in December 2005, bringing the mission to an abrupt end.
• IMAGE was the first satellite mission dedicated to imaging the Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by the Earth's magnetic field.
• The Earth's magnetic-field lines connect to the planet at two poles that lie very close to the geographic North and South poles.
• IMAGE satellite also employed a variety of imaging techniques to 'see the invisible' and to produce the first comprehensive global images of the plasma populations in the inner magnetosphere. With these images, space scientists were able to observe the large-scale dynamics of the magnetosphere.
When: 20 January 2018