On January 20, 2018, an amateur astronomer by the name of Scott Tilley detected a signal he correctly deduced to have originated from NASA’s IMAGE satellite. This satellite, launched in early 2000, had fallen silent almost six years later and given up for dead.
Interestingly, the mechanism for rebooting IMAGE involved passing through the shadow of a solar eclipse. While an eclipse in 2007 didn’t do the trick, speculation is that the eclipse I watched from Wyoming last summer may have done so. It’s nice to know the universe on occasion does make service calls!
IMAGE, the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, was intended to spend its two-year operational life imaging charged particles in the plasmasphere that surrounds the Earth, using several new techniques. As such, it’s a tool to help us investigate the aurorae. Thanks to IMAGE, you can watch a beautiful timelapse presentation of an aurora over the South Pole here .
While the science is important, our wonder at the exquisite and unexpected interactions between our planetary home and the rest of the universe is equally so. A sense of wonder about creation and the very human beings dwelling on – or near! – this Earth is why I write the stories I do.