- By Geeta Pandey
- BBC News, Delhi
Days after making history by becoming the first country to land near the Moon’s south pole, India is set to launch its first solar observation mission.
Aditya-L1 is scheduled to blast off from the launch pad in Sriharikota at 11:50 IST (06:20GMT) on Saturday.
It would be 1.5 million km (93 million miles) from Earth – 1% of the Earth-Sun distance.
According to the Indian Space Research Centre, it will take four months to travel the distance.
India’s first space-based mission to study the largest object in the solar system is named after Surya – the Hindu god of the sun, also known as Aditya.
And L1 stands for Lagrange point 1 – the exact spot between the Sun and the Earth where the Indian spaceship will be placed.
According to the European Space Agency, the Lagrange point is the point where the gravitational forces of two massive objects, such as the Sun and Earth, cancel each other out, allowing a spacecraft to “cruise”.
Once Aditya-L1 reaches this “parking spot”, it will be able to orbit the Sun at the same speed as Earth. This means that the satellite will need very little fuel to operate.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) says that once the spacecraft takes off, it will orbit the Earth several times before being launched towards L1.
From this vantage point, Aditya-L1 will be able to continue viewing the Sun — even if it is hidden during an eclipse — and carry out scientific observations.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has not said how much the mission will cost, but reports in the Indian press put it at 3.78 billion rupees ($46 million; £36 million).
ISRO says the orbiter carries seven scientific instruments that will monitor and study the solar corona (outer layer); The photosphere (the surface of the Sun or the region we see from Earth) and the chromosphere (the thin layer of plasma that lies between the photosphere and the corona).
These studies will help scientists understand solar activity, such as solar wind and solar flares, and their impact on Earth and near-space weather in real time.
Maylswamy Annadurai, a former ISRO scientist, said the Sun constantly affects Earth’s weather through radiation, heat and flow of particles and magnetic fields. At the same time, he says, it also affects space weather.
“Space weather plays a role in how effective satellites are. Solar winds or storms can affect electronics on satellites, knock out power grids. But there are gaps in our knowledge of space weather,” Mr Annadurai told the BBC.
is in India More than 50 satellites in space They also provide many important services to the country, including communication links, weather data and forecasting of pest attacks, droughts and impending disasters. According to the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there are approximately 10,290 satellites in Earth orbit, of which nearly 7,800 are currently operational.
Aditya says Mr. Annadurai will help us better understand and give predictions about the star on which our lives depend.
“Knowing solar activity like a solar wind or solar flare a day or two ahead of time can help move our satellites out of harm’s way. This will help extend the life of our satellites in space.”
Above all, he adds, the mission will help improve our scientific understanding of the Sun, the 4.5-billion-year-old star that holds our solar system together.
India’s solar journey comes days after the world’s first probe successfully landed near the moon’s south pole.
With this, India became the fourth country in the world to have soft-landed on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
If Aditya-L1 succeeds, India will join a select group of countries already exploring the Sun.
Japan first launched a mission to the Sun to study the Sun in 1981, and the US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been observing the Sun since the 1990s.
In February 2020, NASA and ESA jointly launched a solar orbiter that will study the Sun up close and collect data that scientists say will help them understand its dynamic behavior.
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