Bengaluru / Washington: After capturing the moon, India Saturday headed to the Sun — the nearest star and one that sustains life on earth — with the successful launch of Aditya-L1, which will be India’s first solar observatory mission dedicated to study the Sun.
Amid a cloud of smoke and fire, the launch took place at 11:50 am IST on Saturday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The spacecraft separated from the fourth stage of the rocket nearly an hour after launch, making it one of the longest missions of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
Aditya-L1 mission will study the sun’s real-time effects on space weather
The Aditya-L1 mission will study the sun’s real-time effects on space weather. The spacecraft will travel 1.5 million kilometres from earth, which is 1% of the Earth-Sun distance. It will take four months to travel that far.
Aditya will be then placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system. This strategic L1 location will allow the satellite to continuously observe the Sun without any eclipses, providing real-time data on solar activities and their effects on space weather.
The mission will also investigate the “coronal heating problem”, which is one of the biggest mysteries in heliophysics. The corona is the sun’s outer atmosphere, which can reach temperatures of 2 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Increasing efficiency of other missions designed to study sun
The Aditya-L1 mission will add to information gathered by other missions designed to study the sun, including NASA's Parker Solar Probe, the first spacecraft to “touch” the sun in 2021. According to ISRO chairman S Somanath, Aditya L1, loaded with seven key payloads, is designed for providing remote observations of the solar corona and conduct in-situ observations of the solar wind at L1.
As the corona is hidden under the bright light of the sun it is difficult to explain the reason behind the sun flares, hydrogen explosions, huge amounts of energy disposed of and what is contributing to what. But now, with the Aditya-L1, it will be possible to see, observe and have clarity on the movements happening in the Sun. Earlier it was possible to study the corona only at the time of eclipses.
The primary payload is the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) developed by Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), which will send 1,440 images per day (one image per minute) to the ground station for analysis on reaching the intended orbit and is likely to send images for five years or even more depending upon the fuel consumption of the spacecraft.
The IIA payload can take observations roughly three times every second and has a high pixel resolution of 2.5 arcseconds per pixel.
“This data is unique in one way. It can give clearer and detailed images that we never got before. We can combine our data with other scientists for future research,” Jagdev Singh, the principal investigator of VELC, was quoted in the media as saying.
Following the sun mission, Somanath said a series of important launches have been lined up for the second half of the year. “In the first or second week of October, the Gaganyaan test vehicle (TV-D1) will be done, then we will launch GSLV-MK II that will carry INSAT-3DS, thereafter SSLV-D3 (miniPSLV launch), PSLV, GSLVMKIII and so on,” he said.