New Data on Solar Flares Gathered by NASA’s Loaf-sized CubeSat; Eruptions Affect the Earth's Ionosphere

By Brian Ang Oct 19, 2016 06:18 AM EDT
New Solar Flare Data Gathered by NASA's CubeSat
Solar Eruption Rises Above Sun. IN SPACE - DECEMBER 31: In this handout from NASA, a solar eruption rises above the surface of the sun December 31, 2012 in space. According to NASA the relatively minor eruption extended 160,000 miles out from the Sun and was about 20 times the diameter of Earth. (Photo by NASA/SDO via Getty Images)

NASA is making the most out of its one inexpensive but effective scientific device. Just lately, new information about solar flares has been acquired by the Miniature X-Ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSat which was launched in December last year on top of the Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft.

The investigation focuses on the spectrum of light from the sun that hits the Earth. Although what most people see and observe are the visible beams and glow, ultraviolet rays are also emitted.

In June, the loaf-sized unit has started engaging in science programs. Part of its responsibility is to gather data about mild X-rays from low-intensity solar flares snatched by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

In a statement, the MinXSS cites an accelerated brightness and energy levels. The SDO imagery presents a ring of solar matter emerging from the sun's active region that shone radiantly.

From the data, it is known that each kind of solar radiation provides distinct information about the underlying flares. Results unveil the density, temperature and abundance of solar blazes during an eruption. These findings are as well significant since they will determine how these bursts evolve and impact the sun's atmosphere.

Eruptions have a huge effect on the Earth's ionosphere since the sun rays unsettle the near-Earth space where interference in communications signals usually happen.

According to NASA, it has been observed how dynamic the solar atmosphere can act. The MinXSS points out the greater sensitivity even among weak flashes. Judging from the acquired information, the space agency has called the six-month probe fruitful.

The NASA-funded MinXSS is being managed by the University of Colorado in Boulder. The prime objective of the mission is to understand the dynamics behind solar flares. The CubeSat is comprised of two elements. One, it has a detector containing an X-ray spectrometer. Second, it utilizes a radio antenna which is fitted with an extendable measuring tape.

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