Wednesday, October 4, 2023

India’s First Space-Based Solar Observatory To Be Launched By ISRO For Sun Study

By Staff Correspondent

India’s national space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is set to launch its first space-based solar observatory called Aditya L1, marking the country’s maiden mission to study the Sun. The satellite will be used to monitor solar flares and solar storms that can be very disruptive to India’s satellites, power grids, and other communications networks.

Aditya L1 will measure the intensity of particle radiation using its sensors and provide advance warnings to Earthlings about upcoming solar electromagnetic effects. The observatory will weigh about 1500 kilograms and be launched using the heaviest Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) version. India’s Aditya L1 satellite will be located about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth in a zone where it can hang around in a ‘halo orbit’ without much use of onboard fuel.

The satellite’s seven scientific instruments will provide holistic information about space weather, which is as dynamic as Earth’s weather. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, and other ISRO labs have made the satellite.

Solar storms occur when the Sun sends out coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which take one to three days to reach the Earth, burning electronics on satellites and causing electricity grids on terra firma to collapse. Until now, India has been relying on observations made and shared by foreign agencies. With the launch of Aditya L1, India will become ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) in space-based solar situational awareness, which is as crucial as protecting the national borders using spy satellites, says S. Somanath, Chairman of ISRO.

Understanding the ‘Goldi Locks Zone’ and how it can be affected by solar flares has been an ongoing exercise. NASA defines the ‘Goldi Locks Zone’ as the range of distance from a star with the right temperatures for water to remain liquid, and since all life on Earth depends on liquid water, the habitable zone is minimal. So far, globally, only about twenty missions have been launched to study the Sun. India has already sent probes to study the Moon and Mars, and Aditya L1 is now aimed at solving the mysteries of the Sun with its own swadeshi solar observatory.

India currently has a constellation of 48 functional orbiting satellites costing billions of dollars, providing lifelines for communications, weather, banking, and surveillance operations for India. A single solar storm can take these down, making it essential for India to have its solar observatory to ensure safety in space. Aditya L1 is expected to have a mission life of five years, and India seeks to hang the satellite at Lagrangian Point 1, thanks to the phenomenon of celestial mechanics discovered by the 18th-century French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

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