Sun Probe

India’s first mission to the Sun could uncover flaring mysteries

Image credit: Istock

India is gearing up to launch a spacecraft that will fly to, and study, the Sun in order to understand the effects of solar activities on space weather.

Aditya L1 will be the first Indian mission to visit our nearest star. The spacecraft will be placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point 1 (L1) of the Sun, which is about 1.5m km from the Earth.

A satellite placed in the halo orbit around this point has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any eclipses, which will enable it to observe solar activities and its effect on space weather in real time.

The spacecraft has already arrived at its launch site on the island of Sriharikota on India’s east coast in preparation for the launch.

It carries seven payloads to observe the photosphere, chromosphere and the outermost layers of the Sun (the corona) using electromagnetic and particle and magnetic field detectors.

From its vantage point, four payloads will directly view the Sun, while the remaining three will carry out in-situ studies of its particles and fields.

According to The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Aditya L1 will provide a greater understanding of coronal heating, coronal mass ejection and flaring activities.

These phenomena are formed of streams of charged particles that are released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, which can disrupt communications, navigation systems and satellites, and even cause power outages back on Earth.

Fast solar winds typically originate from the coronal holes at the Sun’s poles during its quiet periods, so they generally do not hit Earth. But when the Sun becomes active every 11 years as its magnetic field flips, these holes appear all over the surface, generating bursts of solar wind aimed directly at Earth.

Solar events are currently increasing and are expected to reach a peak in mid-2025, at which point satellites and even astronauts in space could be impacted.

In June, a Nasa probe flew close enough to the corona that it could detect the fine structure of the solar winds – data that could prove essential to get a better understanding of how the flares disrupt electronic equipment.

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