India has launched its first solar observation mission, just days after becoming the first country to land near the Moon’s south pole.
At 11:50 a.m. India time (06:20 GMT), Aditya-L1 blasted off from the Sriharikota launch site.
It will travel 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) from Earth, accounting for 1% of the Earth-Sun distance.
According to India’s space agency, the journey will take four months.
Surya, the Hindu deity of the Sun, also known as Aditya, is the name of India’s first space-based mission to explore the Solar System’s largest object.
And L1 stands for Lagrange point 1, the precise location between the Sun and Earth to which the Indian spacecraft is in route.
A Lagrange point, according to the European Space Agency, is a location where the gravitational influences of two big objects, such as the Sun and the Earth, cancel each other out, allowing a spacecraft to “hover.”
Aditya-L1 will be able to circle the Sun at the same rate as the Earth once it reaches its “parking spot.” This means that the satellite will use relatively little fuel to function.
A few thousand people gathered in the viewing gallery built up by the Indian Space Research Agency (Isro) near the launch site on Saturday morning to observe the launch.
It was also shown live on national television, with pundits calling it a “magnificent” debut. According to Isro experts, the launch was successful and its “performance is normal.”
Isro deemed it “mission successful” after an hour and four minutes of flying time.
“Now it will continue on its journey – it’s a very long journey of 135 days, let’s wish it [the] best of luck,” said Isro head Sreedhara Panicker Somanath.
According to project director Nigar Shaji, once Aditya-L1 arrives at its target, it will help not just India, but also the world scientific community.
Aditya-L1 will now orbit the Earth numerous times before being launched into L1.
It will be able to see the Sun and conduct scientific research from this vantage point.
Isro has not stated how much the mission will cost, however estimates in the Indian press put the figure at 3.78 billion rupees ($46 million; £36 million).
According to Isro, the orbiter will carry seven scientific instruments to view and study the solar corona (the outermost layer), the photosphere (the Sun’s surface or the part visible from Earth), and the chromosphere (a thin layer of plasma between the photosphere and the corona).
The research will aid scientists in understanding solar activity, such as solar wind and solar flares, and their real-time effects on Earth and near-space weather.
According to Mylswamy Annadurai, a former Isro scientist, the Sun continually impacts the Earth’s weather through radiation, heat, and the passage of particles and magnetic fields. At the same time, he claims, it has an effect on space weather.
“Space weather influences how well satellites work. Solar winds or storms may damage satellite equipment and possibly bring down power infrastructures. However, there are gaps in our understanding of space weather,” Mr Annadurai told the BBC.
India has more than 50 satellites in orbit, which provide numerous critical services to the country, such as communication linkages, meteorological data, and forecasting pest infestations, droughts, and imminent calamities. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) estimates that roughly 10,290 satellites remain in Earth’s orbit, with nearly 7,800 of them actively operating.
Mr Annadurai believes Aditya will help us better comprehend, and possibly forewarn us, about the star on which our lives rely.
“Knowing about the Sun’s activities, such as solar wind or a solar eruption, a couple of days ahead of time will help us move our satellites out of harm’s way.” This will assist to extend the life of our satellites in orbit.”
He goes on to say that the expedition will help us better comprehend the Sun, the 4.5 billion-year-old star that keeps our Solar System together.
India’s solar mission follows the successful landing of the world’s first probe near the lunar south pole.
After the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, India became just the fourth country in the world to execute a soft landing on the Moon.
If Aditya-L1 is successful, India will join a small number of countries that are already doing research on the Sun.
Nasa, the US space agency, has been monitoring the Sun since the 1960s; Japan launched its first mission to research solar flares in 1981; and the European Space Agency (ESA) has been monitoring the Sun since the 1990s.
In February 2020, Nasa and ESA launched a Solar Orbiter to study the Sun up close and collect data that scientists hope will help them understand what causes its dynamic behavior.
In 2021, Nasa’s newest spacecraft, the Parker Solar Probe, made history by being the first to travel into the Sun’s corona.