India’s space agency, ISRO, has taken a significant leap in space exploration as it shares the initial images captured by its solar observation mission, Aditya-L1, on its way to study the Sun. Launched on a historic mission on Saturday, Aditya-L1 is embarking on a remarkable journey that will place it 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) from Earth, constituting just 1% of the Earth-Sun distance. ISRO estimates that it will take approximately four months for Aditya-L1 to reach its intended destination.
This solar mission by India comes shortly after the nation achieved a groundbreaking feat by landing near the Moon’s south pole, solidifying its position as a notable player in space exploration.
On Thursday morning, ISRO unveiled two captivating photographs captured by a camera mounted on Aditya-L1 on September 4th. The first image showcases Earth and the Moon sharing a frame, with the Earth appearing prominently while the Moon appears as a distant speck. The second image, a “selfie,” reveals two of the seven scientific instruments that Aditya-L1 is equipped with for its solar mission.
Aditya-L1, India’s maiden space-based mission aimed at studying the Sun, derives its name from Surya, the Hindu god of the Sun, also known as Aditya. The “L1” in its name signifies Lagrange point 1, a critical location between the Sun and Earth where the spacecraft is destined.
According to the European Space Agency, Lagrange points are unique spots where gravitational forces between two massive objects, such as the Sun and Earth, balance, allowing a spacecraft to effectively “hover.” When Aditya-L1 reaches this strategic “parking spot,” it will synchronize its orbit with that of the Earth and Sun, requiring minimal fuel for operation. Since its launch, Aditya-L1 has already executed two maneuvers around Earth, with three more planned before it reaches L1.
Once positioned at L1, Aditya-L1 will have an unobstructed view of the Sun, facilitating continuous scientific observations. While ISRO has not disclosed the mission’s cost, Indian reports estimate it at 3.78 billion rupees ($46 million).
Aditya-L1’s suite of seven scientific instruments will conduct extensive studies of the solar corona (the outermost layer), the photosphere (the Sun’s visible surface), and the chromosphere (a thin plasma layer between the photosphere and corona). These studies are expected to shed light on solar activities like solar wind and solar flares, providing valuable insights into their impact on Earth and near-space weather in real-time.
The success of Aditya-L1 will place India among the select group of nations actively studying the Sun. NASA has been monitoring the Sun since the 1960s, Japan launched its first solar mission in 1981, and the European Space Agency has been observing the Sun since the 1990s. Additionally, NASA and ESA jointly launched the Solar Orbiter in February 2020, which is closely examining the Sun and collecting data to enhance our understanding of its dynamic behavior. In 2021, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe made history by becoming the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona, the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere