Sun's 'Best-Observed Flare of All Time', Credits To NASA
Four spacecraft and one ground-based observatory recorded the eruption of a powerful X-class solar flare occurred on March 29, making it the best-observed such even in history, space.com reported.
Solar flares are powerful explosions with energies greater than that of millions of hydrogen bombs. The observation of such an X-class flare is first of its kind.
The data from the unprecedented observation could help scientists better understand what catalyzes flares, and possibly predict when they will happen in the future - valuable information, considering that flares can cause radio blackouts on Earth, potentially disrupting aircraft, ship and military communication, wrote space.com.
Telescope at Sacramento Peak in New Mexico, Hinode satellite in Japan and three NASA spacecrafts namely the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) made the epic observation possible.
"Some of the spacecraft observe the whole sun all the time, but three of the observatories had coordinated in advance to focus on a specific active region of the sun," Jonathan Cirtain, project scientist for Hinode at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said in a statement.
"We need at least a day to program in observation time and the target - so it was extremely fortunate that we caught this X-class flare," Cirtain added.
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint NASA/European Space Agency effort also studied a coronal mass ejection that accompanied the flare.
NASA officials said scientists are utilizing the data from the multi-telescope observation to understand better how solar flares start and peak.