isros-expedition-to-study-the-sun

The ISRO is preparing to send its first scientific expedition named Aditya-L1 to study the Sun. 

About Aditya-L1 mission

  • Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s second space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in September 2015.
  • The mission aims to observe the Sun from a close distance and try to obtain information about its atmosphere and magnetic field.
  • The mission will carry out round-the-clock imaging of the Sun.
  • It is expected to be launched using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in XL configuration early next year.
  • ISRO categorizes this space-based observatory as a 400 kg-class satellite.
  • It will have seven payloads onboard to study 
    • Sun’s corona
    • Solar emissions
    • Solar winds and flares
    • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)
  • The mission will be undertaken in collaboration between various labs of ISRO, along with institutions like the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata.

Progress did so far

  • All participating institutions are currently in the final stages of developing their respective payloads. 
  • Few payloads have been built, and are in the testing phase. While few payloads are at the stage of integration of individual components.
  • Recently  47 new papers were published in a special supplement of The Astrophysical Journal, analyzing data from the first three flybys of NASA's Parker Solar Probe.

Parker Solar Probe

  • This Probe of NASA will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions.
  • It was launched on August 12, 2018, completed its fourth close approach called perihelion on recently, whizzing past at about 3.93 lakh km/h, at a distance of only 18.6 million km from the Sun’s surface.
  • The probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. 
  • NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has already gone far closer will be looking away from the Sun whereas Aditya L1 will perform continuous observations looking directly at the Sun. 

Challenges in the Aditya L1 mission

  • Aditya L1 will stay much farther away when compared to the Parker solar probe, and the heat is not expected to be a major concern for the instruments onboard. But there are other challenges.
  • Many of the instruments and their components for this mission are being manufactured for the first time in the country, presenting as much of a challenge as an opportunity for India’s scientific, engineering, and space communities. 
  • One such component is the highly polished mirrors that would be mounted on the space-based telescope.
  • Due to the risks involved, payloads in earlier ISRO missions have largely remained stationary in space; however, Aditya L1 will have some moving components.

Importance of studying the Sun

  • Every planet, including Earth and the exoplanets beyond the Solar System, evolves and this evolution is governed by its parent star. 
  • The solar weather and environment, which is determined by the processes taking place inside and around the sun, affects the weather of the entire system.
  • Variations in the solar 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. 
  • Knowledge of solar events will further deepen our understanding of space weather.
  • To learn about and track Earth-directed storms, and to predict their impact, continuous solar observations are needed. 

 

JV’s Prelims Snippets

L1 Point

  • L1 refers to Lagrangian/Lagrange Point 1, one of five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system. 
 

                   

  • They are named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange.
  • In these positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system (like the Sun and the Earth) produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion
  • These points can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position. 
  • The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • The L1 point is about 1.5 million km from Earth, or about one-hundredth of the way to the Sun. 
  • 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.
  • Every storm that emerges from the Sun and heads towards Earth passes through L1
  • Satellites placed in the halo orbit around L1 of the Sun-Earth system have the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/eclipses.

Astrosat

  • It is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory. 
  • This scientific satellite mission endeavors for a more detailed understanding of our universe. 
  • One of the unique features of the ASTROSAT mission is that enables the simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects with a single satellite.

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