nasa, IMAGER,
The IMAGE spacecraft undergoing launch preparations in early 2000.NASA

An amateur astronomer named Scott Tilley used his radio equipment recently to search for a spy satellite which is operated by US Air Force.

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The signals of the lost satellite were picked by Canadian amateur astronomer ScottTilley, while looking for another wayward craft, the Zuma spy satellite. After Tilley informed NASA about his potential discovery, the space center earlier this week double checked the signals and confirmed that the satellite which was found was, IMAGE.

NASA had launched IMAGE as a weather tracking spacecraft in 2000, built at a cost of $150 million. The spacecraft was created to collect space weather data that would affect technology such as GPS devices and radio waves. However, after five years in 2005, it abruptly stopped giving out signals. 

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Finding something like this is like a dream for any amateur astronomer, exclaimed Tilley. "By far, it's the most important thing I've discovered," said Tilley, an electrical engineer, as quoted by NDTV.

"It's a pretty cool thing in my world," he added.

When Tilley shared his discovery with his wife, she asked him to inform NASA. Tilley posted on Twitter about his finding and found out the names of the scientists who had worked on the project and emailed them.

"When I woke up, my inbox was filled with emails from people who worked on it in the early 2000s," Tilley said, NDTV report quoted.

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The confirmation of Tilley's discovery was confirmed by NASA after they analyzed the data accumulated by the scientists at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

NASA is presently trying to know more about the condition of the IMAGE spacecraft and figure out whether it can collect the data which the craft was sent to accumulate.

"We are all very, very excited we might get the satellite back," said Patricia Reiff, who was co-investigator for the IMAGE satellite and is a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University. She had worked on the project since its inception in 1989, as quoted by a NDTV report.

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The space organization had stopped looking out for IMAGES in 2007 because of funding, Reiff revealed. She did not expect to find the craft again. The present issue now is that the technology of the craft is old now and NASA will have to be creative in figuring out ways to communicate with the aging software of the craft.

IMAGE performed its function efficiently till 2005 after which it went dead. According to astronomers, a glitch had occurred in the battery which resulted in the shutdown of the craft. The battery apparently recharged itself using solar power after being inactive for over a decade. The spacecraft sent a homing signal in the space waiting for someone to find it, who turned out to be Tilley.

"They'd given up looking for it, and I happened to stumble across it," Tilley said, NDTV quoted.