Aditya-L1: India’s solar mission reaches sun’s orbit | India

India’s solar observation mission has entered the sun’s orbit after a four-month journey, the latest success for the space exploration ambitions of the world’s most populous country.

The Aditya-L1 mission was launched in September and is carrying an array of instruments to measure and observe the sun’s outermost layers.

India’s science and technology minister, Jitendra Singh, said on social media that the probe had reached its final orbit “to discover the mysteries of sun-Earth connection”.

The US and the European Space Agency have sent numerous probes to the centre of the solar system, beginning with Nasa’s Pioneer programme in the 1960s. Japan and China have also launched their own solar observatory missions into Earth’s orbit.

But the latest mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation is the first by any country in Asia to be placed in orbit around the sun.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed it as another landmark in the country’s space programme. “It is a testament to the relentless dedication of our scientists,” he said on social media. “We will continue to pursue new frontiers of science for the benefit of humanity.”

Aditya, named after a Hindu sun deity, has travelled 932,000 miles (1.5m km) from Earth – still only 1% of the distance between Earth and the sun. It is now at a point where the gravitational forces of both celestial bodies cancel out, allowing it to remain in a stable halo orbit around the sun.

The orbiter, which reportedly cost $48m (£38m), will study coronal mass ejections, a periodic phenomenon in which huge discharges of plasma and magnetic energy are released from the sun’s atmosphere. These bursts are so powerful they can reach the Earth and disrupt the operations of satellites.

The mission also aims to shed light on the dynamics of several other solar phenomena by imaging and measuring particles in the sun’s upper atmosphere.

India has a comparatively low-budget space programme, but one that has grown in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the moon in 2008. In August last year, India became the first country to land an uncrewed craft near the largely unexplored lunar south pole, and the fourth country to land on the moon.

India became the first Asian country to put a craft into orbit around Mars in 2014 and it is expected to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit later this year.

India is also planning a joint mission with Japan to send another probe to the moon by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.


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