India successfully launches its first mission to the Sun
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India has completed the launch of Aditya-L1, a mission to study the Sun’s outermost layers and gain further insight into the causes of solar winds.
Just days after landing its first rover on the Moon, India has successfully launched a mission to our nearest star, the Sun.
The Aditya-L1 spacecraft blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in South India’s Sriharikota at 11.50am local time on Saturday.
The spacecraft is now headed on a long journey towards the Sun. Over the next four months, Aditya-L1 will cover a distance of 932,000 miles (1.5 million km) to reach its destination: a halo orbit around one of five Lagrangian points. If successful, Aditya-L1 will be the first vessel by any Asian nation to be placed in orbit around the Sun.
This location is a place where the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Earth cancel each other out. It is also expected to allow the Aditya-L1 – named after the Sanskrit word for ‘Sun’ – to study solar activities continuously without any occultation and eclipse.
“The launch was successful – everything is normal,” announced an official from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at the mission control centre.
The mission, codenamed PSLV-C57, aims to provide a greater understanding of coronal heating, coronal mass ejection and flaring activities, ISRO has said.
With this aim, the spacecraft carries seven instruments – four aimed at remote sensing and three meant for on-site experiments at the Lagrangian point L1. They will be used to observe the different layers of the Sun: the photosphere, the chromosphere and the corona.
The instruments include a visible emission line coronagraph, solar ultraviolet imaging telescope, X-ray spectrometer, solar wind particle analyser, plasma analyser package and tri-axial high-resolution digital magnetometers.
“I want to congratulate PSLV for a very different mission approach today [towards] this mission of Aditya-L1 to put it in the right orbit. Now, the Aditya-L1 will take its journey after some Earth manoeuvres,” ISRO chairman S Somanath said.
“Let us wish all the very best to the Aditya spacecraft for its long journey and being put around the halo orbit of L1.”
The information gathered from the probe is expected to provide scientists with a better understanding of coronal mass ejections, huge discharges of plasma and magnetic energy from the Sun’s atmosphere, which could potentially disrupt the operations of satellites.
“There have been episodes when major communications have gone down because a satellite has been hit by a big corona emission,” astrophysicist Somak Raychaudhury told NDTV. “Satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) are the main focus of global private players, which makes the Aditya-L1 mission a very important project.
“It will also help us understand how these things happen and, in the future, we might not need a warning system out there.”
Last month, India became the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon after its $75m (£59m) Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft touched ground in a previously unexplored region of the natural satellite.
The achievement took place just days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft – designed to reach this location first – crashed into the Moon. The Indian feat underscores the nation’s efforts to become an international power in space exploration.
In June, a Nasa probe flew close enough to the Sun’s 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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