In an astonishing turn of events, although NASA missed a dangerous solar flare, India’s ISRO discovered it, courtesy of Chandrayaan 2 orbiter.
Even as ISRO prepares for the launch of Chandrayaan 3, its predecessor Chandrayaan 2 is providing extremely valuable input, which could even save the Earth from dangerous events. This time, it detected dangerous solar flares being blasted by the sun that even the otherwise super-efficient NASA couldn’t see. Recently, Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter has detected solar protons through its large soft X-ray spectrometer. The solar protons are responsible for increased exposure to radiation from humans in space. ISRO has revealed that on January 18, the instrument registered CME (Coronal Mass Ejections), the massive bursts of solar particles resulting from intense solar flares. CME fires an abundance of plasma, gases and magnetic fields into space, often from the sunspots that are clumps in the sun’s magnetic field.
These CMEs travel at astonishing speeds of up to 1000 kilometers per second and can reach Earth in about two to three days, hardly warning astronomers and scientists to prepare and warn everyone. Fortunately, not all solar flares travel at the same speed and generally take a day or two to reach Earth. These solar flares often have the ability to cause ionization in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is responsible for the mesmerizing auroras. However, when some really powerful solar flares hit Earth’s atmosphere, they have the power to knock out satellites, the Internet, electricity, and even cell phone connections. Given that everything on Earth now depends on electricity and the Internet, it will disable medical and other systems and cause massive destruction in terms of human lives and infrastructure. Some researchers expect a really strong solar flare to hit Earth in the next decade.
What Chandrayaan-2 orbiter found
ISRO revealed that there were two M-class solar flares. One of them, the M5.5, released particles into interplanetary space, while the other M1.5 was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection. NASA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite also saw this solar flare, but missed the CME event spotted by the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter. When the sun is active, spectacular eruptions called solar flares occur, which sometimes also throw energetic particles into interplanetary space. The solar flares are classified into four classes – A, B, C, M and X based on their intensity. So the most powerful solar flare would be an X-rated flare, while M indicates the second most powerful flare. Further, the numerical number associated with it signifies its power.
About Chandrayaan-2 orbiter
Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)’s second lunar exploration mission, was launched on July 22, 2019. And the orbiter was the part of this mission that hit the Vikram Lander at the Moon’s south pole. Unfortunately, the landing did not go according to plan. Still, ISRO later revealed that the mission had achieved nearly 98 percent success because the orbiter shares crucial information with the Earth’s ground station, such as this recent solar flare detection.