NASA Solar Satellite RHESSI Incinerates in Fiery Blaze Over Sahara Desert


NASA’s RHESSI (Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Image) satellite, launched in 2002 to study solar flares, burned up in Earth’s atmosphere over the Sahara desert in April, according to the US Department of Defense. Although decommissioned in 2018, the satellite continued to orbit until its re-entry on April 19. Most of the 660-pound (299kg) spacecraft disintegrated during re-entry, but some components may have survived and scattered across the desert.

RHESSI, named after solar physics scientist Reuven Ramaty, provided groundbreaking gamma-ray and high-energy X-ray images of solar flares, contributing to our understanding of the Sun’s behavior. The mission exceeded its planned two-year duration and recorded over 100,000 solar flares, including both small and massive ones. RHESSI’s data also shed light on coronal mass ejections and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.

“Over the years, RHESSI documented the huge range in solar flare size, from tiny nanoflares to massive superflares tens of thousands of times bigger and more explosive. RHESSI made discoveries not related to flares, such as improving measurements of the Sun’s shape, and showing that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes – bursts of gamma rays emitted from high in Earth’s atmosphere over lightning storms – are more common than previously thought.”_NASA concluded

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