Wednesday, 27 July 2016

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory Captures Strongest Solar Flare of 2016

Last week, the sun fired off its strongest solar flare of 2016 that was captured on video by NASA's sun-watching satellite - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The event occurred on July 22 and 23, with sun unleashing three relatively moderate solar flares.

Image credits: NASA

According to scientists, the sun is currently passing through a period of low activity. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation emitted by the sun. Although harmful radiation from a solar flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere, but intense radiations can affect GPS and communications signals traveling to Earth. Three solar flares unleashed last week were just 'mid-strength' of M class. The most powerful solar flares classified as X-class eruptions that can cause disruption to communication satellites and can also pose a risk to astronauts in space. Intense solar flares also produce spectacular northern lights display.

"These flares were classified as M-level flares. M-class flares are the category just below the most intense flares, X-class flares," NASA officials explained in their statement. "The number provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc."

The first solar flare was registered as an M5.0 sun storm, which peaked on Friday night at 10:11 p.m. EDT (0211 July 23 GMT). The second, more-powerful flare, registered as M7.5-class solar storm, peaked on Saturday at 1:16 a.m. EDT (0516 GMT), which was followed by third, M5.5-class flare, with peak observed at 1:31 a.m. EDT (0531 GMT).

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched by NASA in February 2010, and the satellite has been observing the Sun then. This mission was part of Living With a Star (LWS) program, which aims to develop the scientific understanding of those aspects of the Sun–Earth system, which directly affect life and society on Earth.

The SDO was designed and developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The primary mission is scheduled to last five years and three months, but can be expanded to last for ten years if everything goes perfectly. Since its launch, the SDO has been analyzing the influence of the Sun on the Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere. Using SDO, scientists at NASA are also trying to investigate how Sun's magnetic field is generated, and the star converts and releases this stored magnetic energy into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of energetic particles and solar wind.

The SDO is carrying with it three scientific instruments: the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. The spacecraft is moving in an inclined geosynchronous orbit around Earth.

Author: Devender Kundaliya