The Sun recently underwent a period of a remarkable lack of major activity such as large flares and sunspots, without equal since the advent of the space age a half century ago. A widely used measure of solar activity is the amount of solar soft X-ray emission, but until recently this has been below the threshold of the X-ray-monitoring Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). There is thus an urgent need for more sensitive instrumentation to record solar X-ray emission in this range.
Anticipating this need, a highly sensitive spectrophotometer called Solar Photometer in X-rays (SphinX) was included in the solar telescope/spectrometer TESIS instrument package on the third spacecraft in Russia's Complex Orbital Observations Near-Earth of Activity of the Sun (CORONAS-PHOTON) program, launched 30 January 2009 into a near-polar orbit. SphinX measures X-rays in a band similar to the GOES longer-wavelength channel.
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