India set to launch Aditya-L1 solar observatory mission this weekas it commences its journey in low Earth orbit, where the mission team will conduct an in-space assessment of its different systems. Should everything proceed smoothly, the spacecraft will systematically adjust its orbit, progressively distancing itself from Earth's gravitational influence.
Upon achieving the necessary separation from Earth, Aditya-L1 will navigate towards the Earth-sun Lagrange Point 1. This location, situated approximately 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away, is a stable gravitational position.
"A satellite placed in the halo orbit around the L1 point has the major advantage of continuously viewing the sun without any occultation/eclipses," ISRO officials wrote in an Aditya-L1 mission description. "This will provide a greater advantage of observing the solar activities and its effect on space weather in real time."
The significance of the "L1" designation in the mission's name becomes apparent with its destination. Meanwhile, "Aditya," derived from Sanskrit, signifies "sun." Upon reaching the L1 point, the probe will employ its array of seven scientific instruments to examine the sun from diverse perspectives. For instance, the data gathered by Aditya-L1 has the potential to enhance our comprehension of solar flares and the intense outbursts of scorching solar plasma called coronal mass ejections, as highlighted by ISRO representatives.
The mission might also provide insights into the enigma of why the sun's outer atmosphere, referred to as the corona, maintains a significantly higher temperature than its surface - approximately 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius), in contrast to the relatively modest 10,000 degrees F (5,500 degrees C).
India's forthcoming launch of the Aditya-L1 mission, with an estimated cost of around 3.8 billion rupees ($45 million US), closely follows the nation's significant achievement in lunar exploration. The Chandrayaan-3 lander-rover pair accomplished a flawless landing on our celestial neighbor last Wednesday (August 23).
Subsequently, Chandrayaan-3 has been actively investigating the moon's southern polar region, a previously unexplored zone. The lunar poles have captured the attention of exploration proponents due to their potential abundance of water ice, a critical resource for potential human habitats.
The Vikram lander and Pragyan rover of Chandrayaan-3 are anticipated to remain operational for approximately one lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days. Following this period, they will be rendered inactive by the extreme cold and darkness during the prolonged lunar night.
Last week, the space agency garnered global recognition with the triumphant touchdown of its Chandrayaan-3 mission. Launched in July as the follow-up to Chandrayaan-2, which encountered a mishap in 2019, this impressive feat has positioned India as the initial country to successfully land on the lunar south pole. This accomplishment also marks the fourth instance in history where a nation has achieved a gentle lunar landing, following in the footsteps of the former Soviet Union, the United States, and China.