China's solar observatory beams back its first image of our host star

The ASO-S observatory, which launched in early October, captured an image of a solar flare eruption.
Chris Young
ASO-S's Sun image
ASO-S's Sun image

PMO/CAS 

China's recently launched Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) beamed its first image back to Earth, a report from Space.com reveals. The new image shows an M-Class flare erupting on the Sun.

China's ASO-S solar observatory launched to orbit aboard one of the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation's (CASC's) Long March-2C rockets on October 9. The country's first dedicated solar observatory is positioned in a sun-synchronous orbit around Earth, flying at an altitude of approximately 430 miles (700 km).

ASO-S, nicknamed Kuafu-1, was designed to analyze solar flares and help better our understanding of the origin of these cosmic events.

China's ASO-S could help us to better understand solar storms

The Sun is currently around the peak of its repetitive roughly 11-year cycle, meaning we're seeing an uptick in solar activity, resulting in the reporting of several massive solar flares in recent months and concerns that they may affect electronics equipment on Earth and in orbit.

The ESA's Solar Orbiter and NASA's Parker Solar Probe have been shedding new light on the mechanisms of the Sun for some time. Now, China's ASO-S

Unlike ASO-S, orbiting Earth, ESA's Solar Orbiter and NASA's Parker Solar Probe both orbit our host star. Nevertheless, ASO-S's high-altitude sun-synchronous orbit is high enough to avoid interference from 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).

HXI's image shows the eruption of a medium-class solar flare that took place on November 11, only a few weeks after the launch of ASO-S into orbit. A massive amount of electromagnetic radiation is seen flying out of the Sun's atmosphere.

Most Popular

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.

China's ASO-S observatory is now fully operational

Alongside HXI, the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation has also tested and calibrated the ASO'S's two other science instruments, meaning it is now fully functional and carrying out scientific observations.

ASO-S will continue to monitor the Sun's magnetic field and observe solar flares and coronal mass ejections in the coming months and years to help the scientific community better understand geomagnetic storms. Data from the observatory could also help to improve space weather predictions.