| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

After the moon, India launches rocket to study the sun

India’s space agency launched a rocket on Saturday to study the sun in its first solar mission in the wake of the country’s successful moon landing.

As scientists applauded, the rocket created a path of smoke and fire, as seen in a live stream on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) website.

Nearly 500,000 people watched the broadcast, and thousands more gathered at a viewing gallery close to the launch site to watch the probe lift off. The probe will research solar winds, which can generate disturbances on Earth that are usually observed as auroras.

The Aditya-L1 launch, which takes its name from the Hindi word for the sun, comes after India defeated Russia late last month to become the first nation to set foot on the south pole of the moon. Despite having a more potent rocket than Russia, India’s Chandrayaan-3 outlasted the Luna-25 to complete a flawless landing.

A parking lot in orbit where things prefer to remain put due to balanced gravitational forces is where the Aditya-L1 spacecraft is planned to cruise for around 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) over the course of four months, saving fuel for the spacecraft.

After the Italian-French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, these points are known as Lagrange Points.

The mission has the capacity to make a “big bang in terms of science,” said Somak Raychaudhury, who was involved in the development of some components of the observatory, adding that energy particles emitted by the sun can hit satellites that control communications on earth.

“There have been episodes when major communications have gone down because a satellite has been hit by a big corona emission. Satellites in low earth orbit are the main focus of global private players, which makes the Aditya L1 mission a very important project,” he said.

Scientists hope to learn more about the effect of solar radiation on the thousands of satellites in orbit, a number growing with the success of ventures like the Starlink communications network of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

“The low earth orbit has been heavily polluted due to private participation, so understanding how to safeguard satellites there will have special importance in today’s space environment,” said Rama Rao Nidamanuri, head of the department of earth and space sciences at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.

Longer term, data from the mission could help better understand the sun’s impact on earth’s climate patterns and the origins of solar wind, the stream of particles that flow from the sun through the solar system, ISRO scientists have said.

As space turns into a global business, the country is also banking on the success of ISRO to showcase its prowess in the sector.

  • Reuters