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May 29, 2024

India’s Solar Mission Aditya-L1 Set to Reach Lagrange Point Next Month

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Dec 24, 2023

India’s first dedicated solar mission, Aditya-L1, is nearing its destination after over 2 years of space travel. The spacecraft is set to reach the Lagrange Point L1 about 1.5 million km from Earth in the first week of January 2024. This major milestone will allow Aditya-L1 to start long-term observations of the Sun.

Mission Overview

The Aditya-L1 mission was launched in February 2021 aboard a PSLV rocket. The goal is to study solar dynamics and provide near real-time imaging of the Sun’s corona and photosphere.

Key mission details:

  • Orbit: Halo orbit around Sun-Earth L1 point
  • Main payload: Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC)
  • Secondary payloads:
    • Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT)
    • Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX)
    • Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA)
    • High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS)
  • Planned lifetime: 5-7 years

The VELC instrument will observe the outer layers of the Sun by blocking direct sunlight. This will reveal the fainter corona surrounding the Sun. Meanwhile, the other payloads measure properties like solar winds, coronal mass ejections, flares, and energetic particles.

Arrival at L1 Point

ISRO Chairman S. Somanath announced on December 23rd that Aditya-L1 is on track to be inserted into a halo orbit around the L1 point on January 6th, 2024. This ends the spacecraft’s long transfer journey and marks the start of routine science operations.

Key tasks before science phase:

  • Fine tuning of orbit to achieve a stable halo orbit
  • Testing and calibration of all instruments
  • Initial images expected within a week of arrival

The L1 point is ideal for a solar observatory since it ensures an uninterrupted view of the Sun without eclipse shadows from Earth or Moon.

Significance of L1:

  • Maintains same orbital period as Earth
  • Minimizes disturbances for crisp solar imaging
  • Enables continuous real-time data transmission to Earth

Science Goals and Objectives

Now that the insertion is nearing, scientists are gearing up to meet the mission’s science goals using data from Aditya-L1’s instruments.

Main science objectives:

  • Study of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar storms
  • Improving space weather predictions to protect satellites
  • Better understanding of Sun’s corona and outer layers

Additionally, the mission seeks to collate data during both quiet and active phases of the Sun over long durations. This will be crucial for solar physics models and theories.

Instrument Key Parameters Science Area
VELC Corona structure, brightness variations Corona dynamics
SUIT UV emissions, sunspots/flares Solar activity
ASPEX Solar wind speed & density profiles Space weather
PAPA Ion/electron flux, temperature Particle environment
HEL1OS X-ray flux, spectra Flares & storms

Each instrument will provide complementary datasets to achieve a holistic view of solar phenomena. This table summarizes their scientific roles.

Beyond L1 Insertion: The Road Ahead

The Aditya-L1 mission has crossed the major milestone of trans-lunar injection. Now that it will soon achieve the final critical event of L1 orbit insertion, what next?

ISRO plans an initial 6 months of instrument calibration and testing followed by over 5 years of routine science operations. The Imaging data and irregular dynamic event alerts will be useful for many further studies by researchers worldwide on all things related to the Sun.

As Somanath summarized:

“The Aditya mission will provide completely new insights into basic physics behind the Sun’s dynamics as an archetypal magnetic star and help advance our understanding of stars across the universe. This truly marks a new era for solar astronomy!”

Beyond Aditya-L1’s goals, ISRO also has future plans for an Aditya-L2 mission and solar coronagraph aboard India’s proposed space station. These will enhance the nation’s scientific prowess even further.

For now, all eyes are set on January 6th for a picture-perfect L1 insertion to kickstart the highly anticipated Aditya-L1 science mission.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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