“India Launches First Sun Observation Mission, Aditya-L1”

“India Launches First Sun Observation Mission, Aditya-L1”

India has successfully launched its inaugural observation mission to the Sun, following its recent historic achievement of landing near the Moon’s south pole. The mission, named Aditya-L1, took off from Sriharikota’s launch pad at 11:50 India time (06:20 GMT) on Saturday.

Aditya-L1’s journey will span 1.5 million km (932,000 miles) from Earth, which is 1% of the Earth-Sun distance. It is estimated to take four months to reach this point.

Named after Surya, the Hindu god of the Sun, Aditya-L1 is heading towards Lagrange point 1 (L1), an exact spot between the Sun and Earth where gravitational forces cancel each other, allowing a spacecraft to “hover” according to the European Space Agency. Once it reaches this position, the satellite will orbit the Sun at the same rate as Earth, requiring minimal fuel to operate.

The launch was witnessed by thousands of spectators at the Indian Space Research Agency’s (ISRO) viewing gallery near the launch site and broadcasted live on national television. ISRO scientists declared the launch a success, with “normal” performance.

After an hour and four minutes of flight, ISRO officially confirmed the mission’s success, and Aditya-L1 will now embark on a 135-day journey.

Project director Nigar Shaji emphasized that the mission will not only benefit India but also the global scientific community.

Aditya-L1 will conduct continuous observations of the Sun, even during eclipses, from its vantage point, providing valuable scientific data. ISRO has not disclosed the mission’s cost, but reports suggest it amounts to 3.78 billion rupees ($46 million; £36 million).

The orbiter carries seven scientific instruments to study the solar corona (the outermost layer), photosphere (the Sun’s surface visible from Earth), and chromosphere (a plasma layer between the photosphere and corona). These studies will enhance scientists’ understanding of solar activity, such as solar wind and solar flares, and their impact on Earth and near-space weather in real-time.

Former ISRO scientist Mylswamy Annadurai explained that the Sun’s influence on Earth’s weather and space weather is substantial, impacting satellite functionality and even power grids. By understanding space weather and solar activities in advance, satellite longevity can be increased.

“India Launches First Sun Observation Mission, Aditya-L1”

Aditya-L1’s mission will significantly contribute to our understanding of the Sun, the 4.5 billion-year-old star that plays a crucial role in our solar system.

This mission follows India’s recent achievement of successfully landing a probe near the Moon’s south pole, making it the fourth country globally to achieve a soft lunar landing, after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China.

India’s foray into solar observation comes as it joins the ranks of countries studying the Sun, with Japan launching its mission in 1981, and NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) studying the Sun since the 1990s. NASA’s Solar Orbiter, launched jointly with ESA in February 2020, is currently providing close-quarters solar data, furthering our understanding of the Sun’s dynamic behavior. Additionally, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe made history in 2021 by flying through the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona.

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