A massive X-class flare was observed late on Friday 9 February (AEDT). Monitoring by NASA and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration noted that this scale of solar flare is infrequent, potentially disrupting radio signals on daylight parts of the plant on Friday.
Another flare from the active sunspot 3575 on 6 February was reported to have caused radio blackouts over parts of Australia and the South Pacific.
While solar flares are relatively harmless to humans thanks to protection from the Earth’s magnetic field, they can disrupt radio communications and electricity grids near where particles released by these eruptions strike the atmosphere. They also pose significant health hazards to astronauts and spacecraft.
While the current solar cycle is expected to be relatively weak, activity is expected to increase up to its maximum in July 2025.
Space boomerang lands in Australia
The Australian Space Discovery Centre is now home to a piece of space history – a boomerang crafted by Talbragar-Wiradjuri artist Lewis Burns.
The boomerang was blasted to space on board the 2021 civilian space mission Inspiration4 in the hands of American geology professor Sian Proctor.
That mission was the first all-civilian voyage to space, where a SpaceX Dragon 2 space capsule was put into low-Earth orbit.
The boomerang has toured Australia, but has now landed at the Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide, right next door to the nation’s own space weather monitoring service. Proctor’s brother Langley, who lives in Australia, was on hand to explain the journey of the item into space.
“When my sister was going into space, I wanted her to bring a boomerang from Australia,” Proctor says.
“I want to thank Lewis [Burns] for what he did, and what he created. It’s beautiful, I love it, and my sister was so happy about it having it travel the world 48 times in the three days they were in space.”
Swedish astronaut returns to Earth after making space history
European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida over the weekend.
His return to Earth after completing the ESA’s Muninn mission, which saw Wandt undertake 20 days on board the International Space Station studying microgravity research and educational activities.
In doing so, Wandt ticked off two milestones in European spacefaring. He was the lead of the ESA’s first joint venture into commercial space collaborations.
Together with Axiom Space, ESA is hoping to demonstrate short-turnaround short-duration missions are of benefit to space science on the continent.
Second, his rendezvous on board the ISS with Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen marked the first time 2 Scandinavians had worked together in space.
“This mission of firsts diversified our access to space, accelerated important science and research, and helped gain experience with new partners,” said ESA’s Director-General, Joesf Aschbacher, who added Muninn had “better prepared ESA and Europe for a post-ISS future”.