China's recently launched Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) has returned its first image, showing an M-class flare erupting on the sun.
The sun image was produced by the spacecraft's Hard X-ray Imager (HXI) and released by the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
HXI captured the eruption of a medium class solar flare on Nov. 11, just weeks after ASO-S was launched. The event saw a tremendous explosion of electromagnetic radiation from the sun's atmosphere. These and larger solar flares can affect the ionosphere and radio communications on Earth.
ASO-S, nicknamed Kuafu-1, launched on Oct. 8 into a sun-synchronous orbit about 450 miles (720 kilometers) above Earth, from which it will monitor the sun's magnetic field and observe solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which hurl vast quantities of superheated plasma into space.
The probe aims to further our understanding of how these violent events are generated and improve space weather predictions.
HXI and ASO-S's two other science instruments have been tested and calibrated, and the probe has already started its operational science phase.