A South Korean man uses his smartphone to take a photo of a television screen reporting news about North Korea rocket launch, Seoul Railway Station, Seoul, South Korea
TOKYO (AP) -- Amateur astronomers tracking a North Korean satellite launched into space last week say that although it appears to be malfunctioning it could remain in orbit around the Earth for several years.
Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said Tuesday that data from trackers in South Africa and Britain show the brightness of the satellite has been fluctuating, which indicates it is tumbling as it orbits. That suggests a malfunction in the probe's stabilizers because it was designed to constantly point toward the Earth.
Even so, McDowell said the probe is continuing to complete orbits and will "be up there for years."
Since the cause of the malfunction remains unclear, he said it is still possible North Korea could determine how to fix it and regain control.