NASA says two sunspots could hurl out M-class solar flares towards Earth; Check details | Tech News

NASA says two sunspots could hurl out M-class solar flares towards Earth; Check details

In a new development, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has tracked not one but two dangerous sunspots and both of them could hurl M-class solar flares towards Earth!

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Dec 11 2023, 09:43 IST
As Hubble Space Telescope gets fixed again, know how NASA once repaired it in orbit over Earth
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1/5 The Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s iconic space telescope has been providing mesmerizing images of the space for more than 3 decades now. It has been a vital asset since its launch in 1990, providing breathtaking views of the universe. According to NASA, a flaw in the primary mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope was detected, shortly after it was deployed. Because of the flaw, the first images taken by the space telescope were fuzzy. The Hubble Space Telescope was designed to be repaired while in orbit. This led to the initiation of the first planned repair mission, Servicing Mission 1 (SM1), in December 1993. (AP)
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2/5 The first servicing mission, known as Servicing Mission 1 (SM1), unfolded in December 1993. The Space Shuttle Endeavour, launched from Florida on December 2, carried a crew of seven astronauts specially trained to rendezvous with and repair the Hubble in orbit. Using Endeavour's robotic arm, mission specialist Claude Nicollier gently secured the telescope to the shuttle's cargo bay just days after launch. (NASA)
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3/5 Throughout five spacewalks from December 4-8, the astronauts performed intricate repairs and upgrades. In the initial spacewalk, Story Musgrave and Jeff Hoffman replaced Hubble's gyroscopes and electrical control units. The second spacewalk, led by Tom Akers and Kathy Thornton, involved replacing the telescope's solar arrays with more temperature-resistant versions. Musgrave and Hoffman returned for the third spacewalk, replacing Hubble's primary camera with an advanced version featuring corrective mirrors to rectify the telescope's initial blurry vision. (AP)
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4/5 During the fourth spacewalk, Akers and Thornton installed the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR), a device designed to enhance the focus of three onboard instruments. The fifth and final spacewalk, conducted by Musgrave and Hoffman, involved replacing solar array drive electronics and assisting in deploying the solar array. Additionally, they concluded work on Hubble's magnetometers. On December 10, Nicollier skillfully employed the robotic arm to release Hubble back into its orbit. It marked the successful completion of the first servicing mission and ensured the telescope's continued contribution to humanity's understanding of the cosmos. (NASA)
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5/5 The image Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope looks like a ghostly haze. (ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Tully)
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Two sunspots pose M-class solar flare threat. Know details, as per NASA. (NASA)

Earth has been bombarded with solar activity in the last few months. In July, it was revealed that 2023 had already broken a 21-year record for the highest number of sunspots which were even more than initially predicted by scientists. But what does the rising number of sunspots mean? The number of sunspots on the Sun is directly related to the intensity of the solar peak. So, the higher the number of sunspots, the higher the chances of solar storms. Solar storms are caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) particles released whenever a solar eruption occurs. These eruptions, also known as solar flares, occur at the center of sunspots, which are the regions of unstable magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun. In a new development, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has tracked not one but two dangerous sunspots and both of them could hurl M-class solar flares towards Earth!

Threat of M-class solar flares

According to a report by spaceweather.com, sunspots AR3511 and AR3513 have been observed to have unstable “beta-gamma” fields. This simply means that there is acceleration at the top of the coronal loops. Both of these sunspots could hurl out M-class solar flares towards Earth. According to NASA, M-class solar flares are moderate in intensity and have the potential to cause brief radio blackouts. This is because when solar particles hit Earth, the radio communications and the power grid are affected when they hit the planet's magnetic field.

The report states, “Sunspots AR3511 and AR3513 have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares.”

Tech aboard NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance, and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 11 Dec, 09:42 IST
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