Using its highly sophisticated Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), NASA captured a spectacular gigantic solar flare, which was probably responsible for a few power outages on our planet last Friday.
The giant solar flare erupted in an extremely active area of the sun, called Active Region 2242. The activity was documented by the space agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which said it was one of the most intense solar flares noticed till date.
NuSTAR has been designed to allow astronomers to investigate distant galaxies for black holes, but the astronomers recently turned the orbiting telescope at the Sun to capture a close-up view of its atmosphere.
Fiona Harrison, principal investigator for NuSTAR at the California Institute of Technology (CIT), “At first I thought the whole idea was crazy. Why would we have the most sensitive high energy X-ray telescope ever built, designed to peer deep into the universe, look at something in our own back yard?”
Harrison added that she confident that NuSTAR could help in solving the decades-old puzzle about the Sun: why its atmospheric temperature is so odd?
While the Sun’s corona is as hot as 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius) on average; its actual surface temperature is relatively very low at 10,800 Fahrenheit (6,000 degrees Celsius).
Scientists have guessed that the reason for the massive difference in temperatures can be because of the existence of nanoflares, which are smaller versions of the coronal mass ejections that are periodically detected bursting from the surface of the Sun. Scientists believe that nanoflares provide more heat and power to the outer layer of the Sun.