An amateur radio operator on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia has added another “gem” to his impressive list of finds in deep space.
Canadian radio amateur Scott Tilley, VE7TIL, of Roberts Creek, British Columbia, has snagged another signal from deep space. His latest conquest has been to copy the signal from China’s Tianwen-1 (pronounced “tee-EN-ven”) probe, which went into orbit around Mars on February 10. Tilley told Spaceweather.com that the probe’s X-band signal was “loud and audible.”
“It was a treasure hunt,” Tilley told Spaceweather.com. He explained that while the spacecraft did post its frequency with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it was too vague for precise tuning (X band is between 8 GHz and 12 GHz).
Launched last July, Tianwen-1 represents China’s first Mars mission. It consists of an orbiter and a rover, which will land on the Martian surface in May or June 2021. It is able to photograph the planet’s surface while in orbit.
Finding signals from deep space is a sub-hobby for Tilley, who seeks what he calls “zombie satellites” among other signal sources. In 2020, he tracked and identified signals from the experimental UHF military communication satellite LES-5.
In 2018, while hunting for an undisclosed US government spacecraft lost in a launch mishap, he spotted the signature of IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration), a NASA spacecraft believed to have died in December 2005.
Tilley has also picked up signals from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the United Arab Emirates Hope probe, both orbiting Mars some 124 million miles away.
He uses a homemade 60-centimeter dish and relies on software-defined radios (SDRs) to accomplish the task.
Radio amateurs have been listening for signals from space since the 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, which transmitted at around 20 MHz. Read an expanded version.