When he’s not on ham radio, Scott Tilley, VA7TIL, an amateur astronomer, hunts spy satellites. Using an S-band radio from his home in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, Tilley routinely scans the skies for radio signals from classified objects orbiting Earth, according to a recent article on Spaceweather.com. Since starting 5 years ago, Tilley has located dozens of secret or unlisted satellites. Earlier this month, while hunting for ZUMA — an undisclosed US government spacecraft lost in a January 8 launch mishap — when he saw the signature of IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration), a NASA spacecraft believed to have died in December 2005. The discovery has delighted space scientists.
“The long gone and nearly forgotten IMAGE spacecraft has come back to life and been detected by an amateur astronomer,” said Mission Manager Richard J. Burley at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight (GSFC), which confirmed that what Tilley spotted is, indeed, IMAGE. Amateur observer Paul Marsh, M0EYT, in the UK provided the first independent confirmation of the IMAGE signal.