A satellite to study the sun was launched in India on Saturday for the first time in the country’s space history – less than a week after an Indian lander first landed near the moon’s south pole. The Aditya-L1 spacecraft, the latest mission in India’s space program, lifted off aboard a rocket from the launch pad at Sriharikota in southern India at around midday (local time). It is designed to observe the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
Four months on the way to the L1 point
The launch was successful, said the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The satellite has been precisely launched into its intended orbit and India’s first solar observatory has begun its journey to the Sun-Earth L1 target. The name of the mission is a Sanskrit word for sun. L1 stands for Lagrange point 1 and denotes the point in space between the sun and the earth where the gravitational forces of the two bodies are in balance, according to ISRO.
The Aditya-L1 spacecraft will orbit the Earth several times and then depart for its destination. The journey will take almost four months. When the satellite reaches the L1 point, it will be about 1.5 million km (932,000 miles) from Earth.
The satellite will remain in an orbit around this location for its entire lifetime, from which it will have an uninterrupted view of the Sun, the space agency said. The Solar Observatory has seven instruments on board to study the Sun’s corona (the outermost part of its atmosphere) as well as the photosphere (the Sun’s surface, or what we see from Earth) and the chromosphere, a thin layer of plasma between the photosphere and the corona , to investigate.
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The data on the solar phenomena that India wants to collect should help to better understand the weather on Earth and other planets. In addition, they should help to better protect communication and climate satellites around the earth, said an ISRO spokesman. The mission is expected to last a little over five years.
Just last Wednesday, a probe landed on the moon on the Chandrayaan-3 mission, making India only the fourth country to land on the moon. The lander Vikram is now to explore the south pole of the moon.