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Aditya L1 Mission: India’s Solar Observatory gets down to business, starts collecting valuable data

India’s Solar Observatory, the Aditya L1, is already getting down to business even before it reaches its destination, the L1 or Lagrange Point 1.

The Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO put out a post on X earlier today with an update from the Supra Thermal & Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) instrument. As per ISRO, the STEPS instrument on board the Aditya-L1 has started collecting scientific data.

In a press note that ISRO published, they explained that the Supra Thermal and energetic Particle Spectrometer, or STEPS instrument, is a crucial component of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX) payload.

The STEPS instrument consists of six sensors, each oriented in different directions. It is”      designed to measure supra-thermal and energetic ions, ranging from 20 keV/nucleon to 5 MeV/nucleon, along with electrons exceeding 1 MeV. These measurements are carried out using both low and high-energy particle spectrometers.

The information gathered during the spacecraft’s orbits around Earth plays a vital role in enabling scientists to analyze the behavior of particles in the vicinity of our planet, particularly in the presence of Earth’s magnetic field.

STEPS activation occurred on September 10, 2023, at a distance exceeding 50,000 km from Earth. This distance is more than eight times the Earth’s radius, placing it significantly beyond its radiation belt region. After completing essential health checks for the instrument, the data collection continued until the spacecraft had traveled beyond the 50,000 km mark from Earth.

All units of STEPS are currently operating within normal parameters. A graphical representation illustrates the measurements, showcasing fluctuations in the energetic particle environment within Earth’s magnetosphere, collected by one of the instrument’s units.

These ongoing STEPS measurements will persist throughout the cruise phase of the Aditya-L1 mission as it progresses toward its destination at the Sun-Earth L1 point. Once the spacecraft reaches its intended orbit, these measurements will continue. The data collected around L1 is expected to provide valuable insights into solar wind and space weather phenomena’ origin, acceleration, and anisotropy.

The Aditya-L1, launched on September 2, 2023, is still far from its final destination, the L1 point or Lagagrange Point 1. ISRO has calculated that the Aditya L1 will reach its goal around mid-January, about 12-15 January. Regarding the L1 point, the Aditya Observatory will be about 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth and be in orbit around a specific topic.

From this point, the Aditya L1 will have an unobstructed view of the Sun. It will be able to collect photos and other data to investigate the dynamics of the solar upper atmosphere, specifically the chromosphere and corona of the Sun. This includes examining chromospheric and coronal heating processes, understanding the physics of partially ionized plasma, investigating the triggers for coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and studying solar flares.

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