indias-solar-mission

Context- One year before the proposed launch of India's maiden solar mission- the Aditya L1- Indian researchers plan to create a skilled community of solar scientists ready to use the scientific data which will emerge from the mission.

Background

  • As a first step, the Aditya L1 support cell has been established at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), which will primarily produce this required trained power.
  • An MoU has been signed in this regard between the ARIES and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) earlier in 2021.
  • The support cell will be a one stop online platform for students, faculty and researchers from colleges, universities and institutions in India to get free access to a sample of processed scientific data pertaining to the sun.
  • All this data will be hosted at the Indian Space Science Data Center (ISSDC) of ISRO with ARIES Cell acting as a manpower training center.
  • The Aditya L1 mission, led by ISRO has the aim of setting up a space based Observatory to track the sun and is expected to be launched sometime in mid 2022.
  • The seven payloads of the mission will study solar Corona, solar emissions, solar winds and flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) as well as capture images of the sun.
  • Along with ARIES, the space agency has joined hands with other National Institutes like the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IA), Inter University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), and the Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata and others.
  • The Cell will not only offer training but also create catalogues of solar parameters and observations that can then be readily used as reference by the students once the data is ready.
  • The Cell will also be responsible for the development of software and tools that will be required to perform research using this data.

Aditya L1 Mission

  • It is India's first scientific solar mission that will be launched using the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) in XL configuration.
  • The space based observation tree will have seven payloads or instruments on board to study the sun's Corona, solar emissions, solar winds and flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and will carry out round the Clock imaging of the sun.
  • It would be placed into a point in space known as the L1 Lagrange point.
  • Aditya 1 was renamed as Aditya L1. The former was meant to observe only the solar Corona.

Objectives of the Mission

  • To study the sun's outermost layers viz. the Corona and chromospheres.
  • To collect data about coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which will also help in yielding information for space weather prediction.
  • It will help in tracking Earth-directed storms and predict its impact through solar observations

Significance of the Mission

  • The data from the mission will be immensely helpful in discriminating between the different models of origin of solar storms and also help for constraining how the storms evolve and what part they take through the interplanetary space from the sun to the earth.
  • The study of the sun will help in gaining information about the evolution of every planet including the earth and the exoplanets that are beyond the solar system and governed by its parent star.
  • Effects of Variation in Solar Weather System: Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with or damage onboard electronics, and cause power blackouts and other disturbances on Earth.
  • It will help in gaining knowledge about solar events that are key to understanding space weather.
  • It will help to learn about and track earth directed storms and also predict their impact for which continuous solar observations are needed.
  • It can also help us understand the coronal heating problem that refers to the fact that the photosphere, a deeper layer of the sun, is that much lower temperature than the outer layer, the Corona.

What is a Lagrange Point?

  • These are locations in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other and produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.
  • Any small mass that is placed at this location will remain at a constant distance relative to the large masses.
  • In the orbital plane of the sun earth system, there are five such points and they are denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5.
  • The L1 point is about 1.5 million kilometers from the earth, or about 1/100th of the way to the Sun.
  • These points can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position.
  • A satellite placed in the Halo orbit around L1 has the major advantage of continuously viewing the sun without any occultation/ eclipses.
  • The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of national aeronautics and space administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Need for studying the Sun and Solar Wind

  • Since the sun is the closest star to the earth, studying it can help learn about more stars throughout the universe.
  • The sun is a source of heat and light for life on the earth. Therefore, the more we know about it the more we can understand about the development of life on earth.
  • The sun is the source of solar winds I.e., a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past the earth at speeds of more than 500 kilometer per second. The disturbances in these solar winds shake the earth's magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near earth space known as space weather.
  • The space weather can have an impact on satellites by changing their orbits, shortening their lifetime or interfering with the onboard electronics. This makes it important to study about the space weather in order to predict such occurrences.

Other Missions to the Sun

  • NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s aim is to trace how energy and heat move through the Sun’s corona and to study the source of the solar wind’s acceleration.
  • It is part of NASA’s ‘Living with a Star’ programme that explores different aspects of the Sun-Earth system.

The earlier Helios 2 solar probe, a joint venture between NASA and space agency of erstwhile West Germany, went within 43 million km of the Sun’s surface in 1976.