India's 'Heavenly Surya Namaskar' is about to reach its peak. India's first space-based solar observatory – the Aditya-L1 satellite – will check in on the home it is likely to occupy for the next five years. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) says the satellite will reach its intended orbit on January 6 at 4 p.m.
On her 126-day journey, which began on September 2 last year, she covered about 3.7 million kilometers as she took a circuitous route to reach 'Karambhoomi' or 'ground of work'. ISRO says Aditya is healthy and the scientific results have already started trickling in as it has sent back beautiful images of the full solar disk.
Aditya's home is located in a halo-shaped orbit, about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Although the orbit is closer to the Sun than the Earth, it will still be very far away, because the Sun is about 150 million kilometers away from us.
From its final location called Lagrangian Point-1, the 1,475 kg Aditya-L1 satellite will conduct scientific experiments to better understand our solar system's star, which remains a mystery.
“The Indian Solar Observatory will have a continuous, uninterrupted view of the Sun and will help us understand space weather. It will serve as a platform for forecasting and warning of solar storms,” said Nigar Shaji, Aditya-L1 Satellite Project Manager at the Indian Solar Observatory. UR Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru.
A solar storm is a large-scale magnetic explosion that occurs in the Sun, and can affect the entire solar system.
“Since Aditya-L1 will look at the Sun continuously, it can warn us of impending solar electromagnetic effects on Earth and protect our satellites, electrical power grids and other communications from disruption. This will help continue normal operations by operating them in the “Safe modes, until the solar storm passes,” Indian Space Research Organisation, told NDTV, adding that India has assets worth over Rs 50,000 crore in space including over 50 operational satellites that need to be protected from the effects of the sun.
“The Aditya-L1 satellite will act as a space protector of sorts, monitoring solar flares and subsequent solar storms,” he explained.
When a large solar flare emerges from the Sun, it can burn out satellite electronics. To protect them, space engineers turn off electronic devices and keep them in a safe off state until the supercharged storm passes.
“Aditya-L1 is a smart satellite. It will never sleep and will monitor the activities of the nearest star to Earth to warn when the sun's wrath will affect us,” said Professor Somak Raychaudhury, an astrophysicist at Ashoka University.
Professor Durgesh Tripathi, a scientist at the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune, said the “complex space telescope” represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for scientists.
Scientific wing on Aditya-L1
ISRO says in its statement that the main scientific objectives of the Aditya-L1 mission are:
- Study of the dynamics of the solar upper atmosphere (chromosphere and corona).
- Study of chromospheric and coronal heating, physics of partially ionized plasmas, coronal mass ejection initiation, and flares
- Observing the particle and plasma environment in situ, providing data to study the particle dynamics of the Sun
- Study of the physics of the solar corona and its heating mechanism
- Diagnosis of coronal and coronal ring plasma: temperature, velocity and density
- Evolution, dynamics and origin of CME (coronal mass ejection)
- Determine the sequence of processes occurring in multiple layers (chromosphere, base and extended corona) that ultimately lead to solar flare events
- Magnetic field topology and magnetic field measurements in the solar corona
- The origin, formation, and dynamics of the solar wind, which drives space weather
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