China’s recently launched Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) has brought its first image back to Earth, according to Space.com. The picture depicts an M-Class flare erupting on the Sun.
China’s ASO-S solar observatory was sent to orbit aboard one of the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation’s (CASC’s) Long March-2C rockets on October 9.
ASO-S, nicknamed Kuafu-1, was designed to analyze solar flares and their origin.
The Sun is currently around the peak of its repetitive roughly 11-year cycle. This means that there is more than usual solar activity, leading to several massive solar flares in recent months. This has raised concerns as they may influence electronic equipment on Earth and in orbit.
Unlike ASO-S, orbiting Earth, ESA’s Solar Orbiter and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe both orbit our host star. Still, ASO-S is high enough to have a sun-synchronous orbit that does not interfere with the Earth’s atmosphere.
The observatory’s new Sun image was captured by its Hard X-ray Imager (HXI), and it was released by the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
It showed the image of the solar flare that occurred on November 11. A huge amount of electromagnetic radiation is seen flying out of the Sun’s atmosphere.
In September last year, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote that our internet-reliant society is more vulnerable to solar storms than ever. Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi explained that a “solar tsunami” could cost the U.S. economy $7.2 billion per day by downing crucial internet infrastructure.
The China Aerospace and Technology Corporation has also tested the ASO’S’s two other science instruments. This means it will be carrying out experiments now.
ASO-S will continue to monitor the Sun’s magnetic field and observe solar flares and coronal mass ejections in the future. Data from the observatory could also help improve space weather forecasts.