After 21 Years, A Defunct NASA Spacecraft Comes To Earth.

Jun, 2023 - by CMI

This week saw the crash landing of a NASA spacecraft that studied solar flares and helped researchers better understand the sun's enormous energy bursts.

NASA reports that on Wednesday at roughly 9:30 p.m. EST, the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Sun Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), a disused spacecraft that was launched in 2002 and disabled in 2018, will reenter Earth's atmosphere.

A portion of the 660-pound spacecraft will survive the descent down to Earth, but the majority of it will burn up when it passes through the atmosphere. NASA estimates that there is an extremely slim probability—roughly one in 2,467—that everyone on Earth would suffer harm as a result of RHESSI's return. The spacecraft's imaging spectrometer was used to gather X-rays and gamma rays from the sun. From its previous location in low-Earth orbit, the satellite appears to have captured images of high-energy electrons, which transfer a significant amount of the energy produced in solar flares.

RHESSI provided vital information on solar flares and the coronal mass ejections they cause because no gamma-ray or high-energy X-ray images of them had previously been taken. These solar flares have the capacity to damage Earth's electrical systems by releasing into the sun's atmosphere the energy equivalent of billions of megatons of TNT in a matter of minutes.

Over the years, RHESSI has experimented with a wide variety of solar flare sizes, from tiny nanoflares to enormous superflares that were many thousands of times larger and more destructive. The satellite's entry into the Earth's atmosphere will be watched, thus according NASA and the Department of Defense.