India has sent a rocket to the sun. Here’s all you need to know about it.
India’s Sun Mission is called the Aditya-L1 mission
The Aditya-L1 is the first ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) mission to study the sun.
A spacecraft was launched 127 days ago, on September 2, 2023 by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C57) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC).
This space center is situated in Sriharikota, an island of Andhra Pradesh. The spacecraft reached its destination, an orbit around the Lagrange 1 point, on 6th January, 2023.
What is the L1 (Lagrange 1) point?
In space, there are special points (like the Lagrange 1 point) where the gravity from a big planet and the gravity from the sun balance each other. Objects placed at this point can stay there without falling toward either the planet or the sun. At Lagrange points objects tend to stay put.
The L1 is one of 5 identified points in the Earth-Sun system where the effects of forces are more stable. It is that perfect spot where everything is balanced, and things can stay in place almost like magic.
Scientists and engineers use these points in space to put satellites and telescopes so they can observe and study things like the Sun or the Earth from a special, stable position.
Where has the spacecraft parked?
The spacecraft has parked in the orbit of the L1 point for the next 5 years, and will observe the sun from there. Settling here was a challenging task, as the orbit, known as a halo orbit, is 3 dimensional.
Normally, orbits, like the ones surrounding planetary bodies are 2 dimensional. Also, it is shaped irregularly. ISRO scientists say that reaching as well as maintaining the orbit are difficult undertakings.
Why is the spacecraft parking at this point?
The Lagrange point easily allows the spacecraft to remain at rest. The advantage of this point when compared to the other 4 (L2, L3, L4, L5) is that it provides a clear view – without anything in between – of the Sun for the Aditya-L1. This is because it is situated approximately perpendicular to the imaginary line, which joins the Earth and the Sun.
Also, the stability of the region minimizes fuel reduction, and ensures the maximum possible efficiency of the satellite.
What is the objective of the Aditya-L1?
There are several objectives tied to this mission.
The main aim is to study the corona (the upper atmosphere of the sun) and the chromosphere (a thin layer of plasma between the corona and the Sun’s visible surface).
The mission studies the heating mechanisms, dynamics, processes etc. of these two layers. There are seven payloads, or instruments on this mission, which are used to investigate the same. Three payloads will conduct on-site, or, what’s called, in-situ study, and the remaining four will view the sun directly.
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