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India’s Chandrayaan-2 detects increased radiation in space due to recent solar flare

India’s Chandrayaan-2 detects increased radiation in space due to recent solar flare
24 Feb, 2022
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The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, launched and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), has detected an increased solar proton event (SPE), or solar radiation in space. While such radiations are not rare, the reason behind them is typically attributed to exceptional coronal mass ejection (CME) events – or storms on the sun’s outer surface. Isro said that the orbiter successfully captured two CME events of varying magnitudes, on January 18 and 20, respectively.

Solar flares are regular occurrences, and are reactions on the sun’s outer surface. Such flares, or solar storms, lead to ionised particles being released into space and across the solar system. Scientists have long stated that such solar flares can vary wildly in terms of magnitude, and if it crosses a particular threshold, could lead to radiation that can bring down satellite communication systems and even power grids on earth.

As a result, solar flares are studied regularly, including American space agency Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe looking to learn the sun’s behaviour in close quarters – to better predict the occurrence of violent solar storms that can bring life on earth to a standstill. Classification of solar flares are made in five categories – A, B, C, M and X. Each category represents a 10x increase in the sun’s energy output – for instance, a solar flare of B magnitude is 10x greater in intensity over an A-magnitude flare.

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To this end, a statement made by Isro on the matter said, “Recently, there were two M-class solar flares. One flare (M5.5) spewed out energetic particles into interplanetary space and the other flare (M1.5) was accompanied by a CME.” It also described how Nasa’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (Goes) failed to record the origin of the SPE due to it being within earth’s atmosphere.

“Chandrayaan-2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS) on-board Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter detected SPE due to an M5.5 class solar flare that occurred on January 20, 2022. The CLASS instrument also detected a CME event as it passed through the moon due to an M1.5 class solar flare that occurred on January 18. The CLASS payload on Chandrayaan-2 saw both the SPE and CME events pass by from two intense flares on the Sun,” Isro’s statement on the matter read.