Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Formosat-5 detects two intense solar flares

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Formosat-5, Taiwan’s first domestically designed and built satellite, detected the most intense solar flares in 12 years on Wednesday last week and on Monday, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) associate professor Lin Chien-hung (林建宏) said yesterday.

Harmful radiation from a solar flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere, but the radiation, when intense enough, can disturb a layer of the atmosphere where GPS and communications signals travel, NASA said on Wednesday.

“About three weeks ago, a group of sunspots mushroomed on the sun’s surface,” Lin said. “Their magnetic force is strong, but unstable, causing solar flares and particles to erupt outward.”

Fortunately the two flares did not strike the Earth directly, or they would have created a stronger geomagnetic storm that could last for several days, he said.

The first flare was classified as an X9.3-class flare, which traveled at between 700km and 800km per second, but its effect was minor, Lin said.

The second flare was classified as an X8.2-class flare that could create a minor geomagnetic storm on Earth today, he said.

Thanks to Formosat-5, which was launched on Aug. 25, researchers can collect more data about space weather and make forecasts, he said.

Formosat-5 can observe changes to the ionosphere using its Advanced Ionospheric Probe (AIP), which was designed by National Central University’s professor Chao Chi-kuang (趙吉光) and is superior to Formosat-1’s AIP designed in the US, Lin said.

Lin is a member of NCKU’s Lithosphere, Atmosphere, Space Coupling Laboratory, which began working with the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in April this year.

“The US center hopes to obtain preliminary results from Formosat-5 before the launch of Formosat-7 next year,” Lin said, adding that the US National Weather Service and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts pay close attention to Taiwan’s progress in space technology.

Formosat-7 is a collaborative program between Taiwan and the US, with its parts and database made by Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO) and its antennae by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as the latter hopes to keep some information confidential, Lin said.

NSPO officials and Lin’s team are to participate in the International Radio Occultation Working Group’s meeting about Formosat-7 in the US next week, he said.

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