Image of the Earth and the Moon as captured by Aditya L1. (Photo | ISRO)
Image of the Earth and the Moon as captured by Aditya L1. (Photo | ISRO)

Aditya sets out to shine torch on Sun

It is also expected to provide a better scientific understanding of the Sun’s activities and their probable impacts on Earth, the other planets, and their satellites.

India’s first space-based mission to study the Sun left its earthly orbit at 2 am on Tuesday. The Aditya-L1 craft started on a 110-day journey to Lagrange point 1 (L1), a location in space 1.5 million km away, where it will be placed in an orbit to gaze at the sun unobstructed. This point, a hundredth of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, is where the gravitational forces of the two celestial bodies balance out. This allows the satellite to remain in position with reduced fuel consumption.

The scientific community is excited. The craft is carrying seven payloads to study the Sun’s photosphere (surface), corona (outermost layers), and chromosphere (a thin layer between the photosphere and the corona) using electromagnetic, particle and magnetic field detectors. Using the special vantage of L1, four payloads will directly view the Sun, while the other three will conduct in situ studies of particles and fields near L1. These will relay important data on how the Sun affects its planets, and would help understand the corona and explosive bursts of plasma from it that cause intense geomagnetic storms on Earth. These storms can disrupt power grids and telecommunication networks, and expose astronauts to dangerous doses of radiation. The data will also help understand other eruptions of intense high-energy radiation from the Sun’s surface called solar flares. These flares too cause radio and magnetic disturbances on Earth. It is also expected to provide a better scientific understanding of the Sun’s activities and their probable impacts on Earth, the other planets, and their satellites.

The public’s excitement over Aditya-L1 is dwarfed by the euphoria following the Chandrayaan 3 moon landing. But this mission is critical for science. That is why there are five similar solar missions being conducted at present—NASA and the European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, NASA’s STEREO-A, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Parker Solar Probe, and the ESA-led Solar Orbiter. As we wait for Aditya to begin its observations from L1, scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation are keeping their fingers crossed on whether Chandrayaan 3’s lander Vikram and rover Pragyaan can be revived over the next couple of days to resume experiments. The Sun that Aditya has set out to explore will rise on the lunar south pole on September 22, hopefully recharging Vikram and Pragyaan’s solar panels to begin ‘Chandrayaan 3-2.0’. Meanwhile, Aditya is speeding out to shine its torch on the Sun.

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The New Indian Express
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