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Sun’s Fury May Fry Satellites, But India Has A Watchful Space Protector


ISRO has released sun’s images captured by Aditya L-1

New Delhi:

India’s maiden space-based solar observatory, Aditya L1 satellite, has recently captured ‘solar fury’ and now the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has warned that the Sun is moving towards “its solar maximum, giving rise to enhanced activity”.

ISRO chairman S Somanath told NDTV, “Aditya L1 captured when the Sun got angry this May. If it gets furious in the near future, as scientists suggest, India’s 24x7X365 days’ eye on the Sun is going to provide a forewarning. After all, we have to protect the 50-plus Indian satellites in space that have cost the country an estimated more than Rs 50,000 crore. Aditya L1 is a celestial protector for our space assets.”

In a series of images released today by the Indian space agency, the solar storms of May 17 have been effectively captured and full disk images show enhanced solar activity and solar flares.

When a large solar flare comes out of the Sun like it came on May 11, it can literally fry the electronics of the satellites. To protect them, space engineers shut down the electronics and keen them in safe mode till the highly charged storm passes over. In the past, SpaceX’s constellation of Starlink satellites have suffered serious damage due to a solar storm.

Mr Somanath added, “India’s first space-based solar observatory Aditya L1 was a challenging maiden mission for ISRO. Today, all seven instruments onboard are working to satisfaction as it hovers in the unique halo orbit 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.”

Aditya reached its home on January 6 this year, some 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth, but closer to the Sun. It will still be far away from the Sun, which is some 150 million kilometres away from the Earth. From this final vantage point, which is called the Lagrangian Point-1, the 1,475 kg satellite is conducting scientific experiments to better understand the Sun since the star of our solar system remains an enigma.

“India’s Aditya L1 satellite is a space-based insurance policy of sorts, keeping an eye on solar flares and solar storms,” explained Mr Somanath. “Aditya L1 will look at Sun continuously, so it can warn us of imminent solar electro-magnetic effects on Earth and protect our satellites, and other power electrical and communications networks from getting disrupted.”

ISRO said in a statement, “Our Sun is the nearest star and the largest object in the solar system. The estimated age of Sun is about 4.5 billion years. It is a hot, glowing ball of hydrogen and helium gases. The distance to the sun from the earth is about 150 million kilometres, and is the source of energy for our solar system. Without the solar energy, the life on earth, as we know, cannot exist. The gravity of the sun holds all the objects of the solar system together. At the central region of the sun, known as ‘core’, the temperature can reach as high as 15 million degree Celsius. At this temperature, a process called nuclear fusion takes place in the core which powers the sun. The visible surface of the sun known as photosphere is relatively cool and has temperature of about 5,500 celsius.”

ISRO said Aditya L1 satellite’s two main scientific instruments were not fully ready on May 11 to capture the big solar storm and were still being calibrated and tested. This miss caused some angst in the Indian scientific community. It should be noted that only a handful of countries have mastered the art of having a full-fledged functional solar observatory in space.

Aditya L1 is an intelligent satellite, it will never sleep and it keeps a hawk’s eye on the activities of the Sun. It is essentially a scientific satellite and will give a forewarning on when the Sun is going to have a mood swing, explained Professor Somak Raychaudhury, astrophysicist and Vice Chancellor, Ashoka University. Researchers say the Sun will get more furious soon and earthlings have to be vigilant.

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