The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shared some eye-popping footage of an active solar flare on its social media accounts.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) caught the mid-level solar flare at around 1 a.m. EST on Jan. 20. Solar flares are strong bursts of energy. They usually happen in active regions of the Sun, or areas with strong magnetic fields.
“As these magnetic fields evolve, they can reach a point of instability and release energy in many forms, including electromagnetic radiation, which is what is observed as solar flares,” NASA wrote on Instagram. “Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.”
See the footage here:
SDO Is Keeping Tabs on the Sun ‘In True Main Character Fashion’
“In true main character fashion, we treat the Sun as if our world revolves around it,” NASA added.
The SDO has a fleet of spacecraft through which it can observe the Sun and the Earth’s immediate space environment 24/7. It studies the Sun’s activity. It also studies the solar atmosphere and the particles and magnetic fields in the space around Earth.
That’s how they captured the recent solar flare. Flares are our solar system’s biggest explosive events, according to NASA. They can last anywhere from minutes to hours. And they show up as bright spots on the sun. You can tell a solar flare from the photons it gives off at almost every wavelength of the spectrum.
NASA monitors flares in X-rays and optical light. At the site of a flare, particles such as electrons, protons and heavier particles tend to speed up.
Independent Safety Panel Finds NASA Needs to Develop Plan for Managing Risk
Meanwhile, a new report from NASA’s independent safety panel has concluded that the space agency is now at an “inflection point.” It found that NASA needs to hash out a plan for assessing risk in human spaceflight, Florida Today reports.
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said in its recent annual report that things have changed since the old days. No longer is NASA the only one transporting U.S. astronauts around outer space. Now NASA is paying SpaceX, and before long, Boeing, to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. So NASA needs a concrete plan with its partners to manage risks, ASAP said.
“As NASA looks to the future and moves to expand human knowledge and operational capabilities beyond [low-Earth orbit], it must recognize and adapt to the new environment and decide strategically how to forge humanity’s path outward while managing the risks in an appropriate manner,” the new report reads.
The report cited differences between NASA and its partners over nighttime splashdowns and risk scoring as examples of areas where NASA needs clearer guidelines. And with the space industry changing rapidly, it looks like NASA will have to figure out something soon to keep its astronauts safe in outer space.