Aditya-L1: India launches solar observation probe

Journey is expected to take four months

India launches rocket to study the Sun

India launches rocket to study the Sun
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India has launched a probe to study the Sun and how its activities affect space weather.

On Saturday, an Indian rocket lifted off from the island of Sriharikota, carrying the Aditya-L1 mission into space so it can begin its solo four-month journey towards the Sun.

The launch comes only a week after an Indian craft soft-landed on the Moon, making India the fourth nation to achieve the daring feat and the first to touchdown on the lunar south pole region.

“Aditya-L1 will stay approximately 1.5 million km away from Earth, directed towards the Sun, which is about 1 per cent of the Earth-Sun distance,” the Indian Space Research Organisation posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday.

“The Sun is a giant sphere of gas and Aditya-L1 would study the outer atmosphere of the Sun.

“Aditya-L1 will neither land on the Sun nor approach the Sun any closer.”

What will it study?

Scientists believe it is important to study the Sun because its activities can influence Earth, other planets and space itself.

Mars, for example, was believed to be a habitable planet a long time ago, but its atmosphere was destroyed by solar winds, causing it to become hostile to any kind of life.

The Aditya-L1 mission is expected to help unlock secrets of solar activities, including helping scientists understand coronal heating better.

This when the Sun's upper atmosphere, or corona, stays heated at millions of degrees, which is 200 to 500 times higher than the layer beneath it.

It will also send back crucial data on coronal mass ejections and flares.

These are events that cause atmospheric disruptions on Earth, such as when northern lights appear in the skies.

It is when charged particles from the Sun collide with the planet's upper atmosphere, causing the "dancing lights".

But a high intensity of ejections and flares could create a solar storm, which can disrupt satellites in Earth's orbit and cut off radios.

In 1989, the Quebec province in Canada faced a power cut after a solar storm damaged the electricity grid.

The particles crossed through Earth’s magnetic field, causing Central and Northern Canada’s skies to light up with aurora borealis – or northern lights – for two full days and the phenomenon was visible in places such as Honduras and Dominica.

In 2003, a solar storm damaged 28 satellites in low-Earth orbit and destroyed two others.

Are there other missions studying the Sun?

There have been missions by other space agencies launched to study the Sun.

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe became the first craft to "touch" the Sun in 2021 when it flew through the Sun's upper atmosphere to sample particles and magnetic fields.

This was the first time a spacecraft has entered the corona.

It was launched in 2018 to explore the mysteries of the Sun and get closer to it than any previous spacecraft.

After spending hours making several flybys in and out of the corona, the solar probe made new discoveries that other spacecraft were too far away to see.

One of the discoveries was being able to solve the mystery of where the Alfven critical surface lies, which is a point in space that marks the end of the solar atmosphere and beginning of the solar wind.

Updated: September 02, 2023, 8:47 AM