Science

That’s not a UFO! It’s just a Japanese satellite flashing a Morse code message from space

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When you look into the night’s sky over the next month don’t be surprised if you see something that looks like a UFO overhead – it’s just a tiny Japanese satellite flashing a secret message in Morse code back to Earth.

Measuring 10 cm (about 4 inches) the box-shaped Japanese satellite, nicknamed Niwaka, will be flashing a Morse coded message back to Earth to become the first orbiting technology to communicate with the planet through visible LEDs.

Niwaka satellite
Niwaka satellite. via fit.ac.jp/

Astronauts on board the International Space Station officially “launched” the satellite from the Japanese “Hope” laboratory on the ISS today.  The satellite will orbit the Earth 16 times a day and last about 100 days.

The message was just meant to be seen over Japan but the satellite’s designers received dozens of requests from people around the world asking if the message could be flashed over their countries.

Speaking to the AFP Takushi Tanaka, professor at The Fukuoka Institute of Technology, said

Requests came from far more people than I expected — a man in Silicon Valley wanted to see it while another man wanted us to flash it over Central Park in New York,” he added;

“There is no practical aim to this, but it is a fun experiment that everybody can join.”

The satellite will use different coloured LEDs to ensure that the message stands out against the night’s sky.  People in the Northern Hemisphere will see the message flashed in green while those in the Southern Hemisphere will the message in red.  But regardless of where you are you will probably need a set of binoculars to see it clearly (not to mention a cloudless night).

Niwaka doesn’t just contain two sets of LEDs; it also comes with an on-board camera and communications equipment to allow it to broadcast images of the Earth to Japan.  This is the real function of the satellite, to test high-speed data transmission back to the planet.

Oh, and what’s the secret Morse code message?  The satellite will be flashing, “Hi this is Niwaka Japan” which should look something like this;

Hi This is Niwaka Japan
…. ..   – …. .. … ..  …  -. .. .– .- -.- .-  .— .- .–. .- -.

Featured image via bigstockphoto.com

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).