India has achieved another milestone in space exploration by launching its first solar observation mission, Aditya-L1, just days after making history as the first country to successfully land near the Moon's south pole. The mission aims to study the Sun and its various aspects, marking a significant step in advancing our understanding of the star that is central to our solar system.
Aditya-L1, named after Surya, the Hindu god of the Sun, lifted off from the Sriharikota launch pad on 2nd September, embarking on a journey that will take it 1.5 million km (932,000 miles) from Earth, approximately 1% of the Earth-Sun distance. The Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) estimates that it will take about four months for the spacecraft to reach its destination.
The mission's name also includes "L1," signifying its destination, the Lagrange point 1, a position between the Earth and the Sun where gravitational forces cancels each other out, allowing a spacecraft to effectively "hover." Upon reaching this "parking spot," Aditya-L1 will be able to orbit the Sun at the same rate as the Earth, requiring minimal fuel for its operations.
Thousands of spectators gathered at ISRO's viewing gallery near the launch site to witness the "magnificent" liftoff, which was also broadcast live on national TV. ISRO scientists confirmed that the launch was successful, and the spacecraft's performance was normal.
Aditya-L1 carries seven scientific instruments designed to observe and study various layers of the Sun, including the solar corona, photosphere, and chromosphere. These studies will help scientists better understand solar activity, such as solar wind and solar flares, and their real-time impact on Earth and near-space weather.
The mission's importance is underscored by its potential to enhance our knowledge of space weather, which plays a critical role in satellite functionality, affecting communication links, weather data, and disaster prediction. Understanding solar activities in advance can help protect satellites and increase their longevity in space.
Mylswamy Annadurai, a former ISRO scientist, emphasized the significance of this mission, stating that it would provide valuable insights into the Sun's influence on Earth and space weather, ultimately contributing to our scientific understanding of the 4.5-billion-year-old star that sustains our solar system.
India's solar mission follows its recent lunar success when it achieved the world's first-ever soft landing near the Moon's south pole. This accomplishment made India the fourth country in the world, after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China, to achieve a soft landing on the Moon.
With the launch of Aditya-L1, India joins the select group of countries actively studying the Sun, including Japan, the US space agency NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA). These missions collectively contribute to expanding our understanding of the dynamic behaviour of the Sun, which remains vital to our exploration of space and its numerous applications on Earth.
India's successful launch of the Aditya-L1 solar mission marks another remarkable achievement in its growing space exploration endeavours, underlining its commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and technology on the global stage.