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  • Voltaire Staff

India's Sun mission Aditya L1 to enter final orbit Saturday

India is all set to create history with its Sun-bound Aditya L1 ready to enter into its final orbit on Saturday evening.

According to ISRO, Aditya L1 has already reached the L1 point, and the maneuver on January 6 will put it in the right orbit. If it doesn't get into the orbit, it will keep going towards the Sun.

L1 is about 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth, just 1 per cent of the distance between Earth and the Sun. The spacecraft will be in what's called a 'halo orbit,' which will help it observe the Sun from different angles.

"Aditya L1 will make it to a halo orbit around the L1 point. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the L1 point will also move. So does the halo orbit," Annapurni Subramaniam, director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, told Indian Express.

According to him, getting into the orbit is a big challenge, and it's the first time the ISRO is trying this.

Dibyendu Nandi, a solar physicist, said, "This maneuver is critical. It involves firing thrusters to change the speed and path of the spacecraft. If the first try misses, there will be more attempts and adjustments needed."

The spacecraft, sent into space on September 2, is on course to enter a 'halo orbit' around Lagrange Point 1 (L1).

L1 is among the five specific locations within the Sun-Earth system where the gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth are approximately equal, creating a stable environment for the spacecraft.

This unique orbiting position allows for a delicate balance between the gravitational pulls of the Sun and Earth, providing an ideal vantage point for solar observation.

On Saturday, Aditya would have been in space for 126 days. Since September 18, it has been collecting data and taking pictures of the Sun.

There are seven scientific tools onboard, including ones to track the Sun directly and instruments to measure solar winds and particles.

The mission is important because it can study the Sun at different wavelengths and understand things like radiation, particles, and magnetic fields coming from the Sun.

The spacecraft has a special camera called a coronagraph that helps scientists look closely at the Sun's surface.

The instrument will complement data gathered by NASA and the European Space Agency's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) – the only other satellite currently positioned at Lagrange Point 1 (L1).

"To study the faint light from the corona, we have to block the bright light from the Sun's surface or photosphere. The challenge is that we might end up blocking more than just the photosphere – the occulting disk used in previous missions was typically twice the size of the photosphere.

"For the first time with the Aditya L1 mission, we are attempting to observe as close as possible to the beginning of the corona with a smaller occulting disk, just 1.05 times the size of the photosphere," said Prof R Ramesh from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in a recent interview with The Indian Express.

Notably, the coronagraph on SOHO, which is no longer operational, had an occulting disc that was 1.1 times the radius of the Sun's surface.

The world is watching this mission closely as it can provide valuable insights into the Sun's behavior, with potential benefits for understanding solar storms and their impact on Earth.


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