India establishes September launch schedule for solar study missionafter its successful lunar mission. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has announced its upcoming mission involving the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, scheduled for launch on September 2 from the Sriharikota Spaceport. ISRO's inaugural solar mission holds a range of pivotal objectives.
These encompass the investigation of dynamics within the solar upper atmosphere, specifically the chromosphere and corona. By delving into the mechanisms behind chromospheric and coronal heating, the physics of partially ionized plasma, the triggers for coronal mass ejections and solar flares, the mission seeks to unlock fundamental insights.
Furthermore, the mission aims to provide valuable data concerning the in-situ particle and plasma environment. This data, in turn, contributes to the comprehensive understanding of particle dynamics originating from the Sun. An integral aspect of the mission entails unraveling the intricacies of solar corona and its enigmatic heating mechanism.
In addition to the aforementioned, the mission endeavors to perform diagnostic studies on the plasma within coronal loops, investigating essential parameters such as temperature, velocity, and density. The mission's focus extends to the evolution, kinetics, and origins of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). By scrutinizing the multifaceted processes unfolding across different layers - including the chromosphere, the corona's core, and its extended regions - the mission aims to decipher the sequence that culminates in solar eruptive events.
Magnetic field investigation constitutes a pivotal component, entailing the mapping of magnetic field topology within the solar corona. The mission's scope further encompasses magnetic field measurements in this intricate environment. Moreover, the mission aspires to identify the driving forces behind space weather, encompassing the origins, composition, and dynamics of the solar wind - factors with critical implications for Earth's space environment.
The sun setting with the ocean in view
Named after the Hindi word for the sun, "Aditya," the spacecraft will be strategically placed in a halo orbit around Lagrangian point 1 of the Sun-Earth system. This unique vantage point ensures unobstructed solar observations, as explained in an ISRO report.
Lagrange points are specific locations in space where the gravitational forces between two significant celestial bodies create areas of amplified attraction and repulsion. This phenomenon can be exploited to effectively "park" spacecraft in position, minimizing the need for excessive fuel consumption.
This imminent launch signifies India's maiden venture into deploying a space-based observatory dedicated to studying the sun. A key advantage of this mission is its continuous and uninterrupted view of the sun, devoid of any interferences such as occultation or eclipses, as highlighted in the ISRO report.
The upcoming mission will also facilitate the examination of solar wind, a phenomenon that holds the potential to induce disruptions on Earth. These disruptions encompass disturbances that could impact communication networks and navigation systems.
In 2019, the Indian government allocated a budget of $46 million for this mission, although no subsequent updates have been made public.
On a noteworthy achievement, India achieved the distinction of becoming the fourth nation to achieve a successful lunar landing, accomplishing this feat with a comparatively modest initial budget of $75 million.
While this marks India's inaugural endeavor in this domain, other countries have achieved successful placements of orbiters designed for solar study. Notably, NASA's Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2021, ventured into the sun's corona to gather particle and magnetic field samples. Similarly, the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter, launched the preceding year, also embarked on a mission to study the sun.