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Japan's LED-stacked cubesat will burn Morse code into the heavens

Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
October 5, 2012
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If you thought cloud writing was cool, then how about a message from space burnt into the night sky? A group of unassuming cubesats recently left the comfort of the ISS and joined Earth's orbit -- among them was FITSAT-1 (aka Niwaka), a four-inch-cubed Japanese satellite covered in high-powered LEDs. Its mission is to broadcast the message "Hi this is Niwaka Japan " in Morse code, using bursts of intense light to draw dots and dashes across the heavens. FITSAT-1 was originally planned to appear only over Japan , but a flurry of interest means it'll be touring the globe, starting next month. It'll also find time for its studies, beaming VGA images snapped with an onboard camera back to Earth, to test a high-speed data transmitter.

While its creator, Professor Takushi Tanaka, has said the Morse broadcast has "no practical aim," we think it would make a good emergency beacon for natural disasters (or, more worryingly, alien invasions). FITSAT-1 will try and fulfill all requests for appearances, but it can't control the weather, so you'd better hope for a clear night if it visits your part of the world. If you're as excited as we are to see it in action, bookmark the source links below, which should be updated with its orbit schedule in the near future. And, even if you don't speak Japanese, the video after the break will give you an idea of what to expect.

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