Japan Loses Track of $273 Million Satellite Sent to Study Black Holes

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Dozens of space scientists are desperately scouring the skies after losing track of a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar Japanese satellite that was sent to study black holes.

The ultra-high-tech “Hitomi” — or eye — satellite was supposed to be busy communicating from orbit by now, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said, but no one can say exactly where it is.

The device briefly made contact with ground crews but has since disappeared, with American researchers reporting that it could have broken into several pieces.

“We’re taking the situation seriously,” Saku Tsuneta, director of the agency’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, told a news conference on Sunday.

JAXA has around 40 technicians on the case, trying to locate the spacecraft and establish some kind of communication with it, an agency spokesman told AFP on Monday.

“We know approximately where it is,” the spokesman added, but scientists were still trying to work out its precise location.

The satellite, developed in collaboration with NASA, the US space agency, and various other groups, was launched on February 17 and was designed to observe X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters.

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SOURCE: Discovery News, AFP