Friday, October 22, 2021

Determining Space Weather crucial for monitoring satellites ahead of Aditya L1 mission to Sun

 

The Universe is serving as an inventory for scientists to provide information that is unknown, mysterious, and enlightening, all at the same time. There are various phenomena that happen in the deep, dense Space but have subsequent effects not only on our planet but on us as well. That’s how we are interconnected!

Recently, a team of astronomers associated with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru probed into how solar atmospheres like coronal mass ejections influence the accuracy of space weather prediction, which in turn is crucial for the health of our satellites. The phenomena happening beyond Earth affect the ground telecommunication networks. This new study, published in Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, will assist in interpreting data from India’s first solar mission, Aditya-L1.

The word in highlight: Space Weather

Space Weather refers to dynamic environmental conditions in near-Earth space. In the words of NASA, “Activity on the Sun’s surface creates a type of weather called space weather.” Even when the Sun is really distant, about 150 million kilometers from our planet Earth, space weather has the capability to affect Earth and the rest of the solar system. In a worst-case scenario, space weather can be responsible for damaging satellites and it can even cause electrical blackouts on Earth! The conditions in the solar atmosphere can adversely affect the performance of space-borne and ground-based technological systems.

Now, the question is, how does Space Weather, happening millions of thousands of kilometers away, affect Earth? The Sun is constantly spewing gas and particles into space which is known as the solar wind. The Sun’s hot atmosphere emits explosives in the form of gas and particles that is known as Corona. Now, the particles from the corona are charged with electricity and the solar wind is responsible to carry these gases and particles toward Earth at up to a rate of a million miles per hour.

The Coronal Mass Ejections or CMEs blow past the Earth and hence, it is essential to comprehend how events in the solar atmosphere influence space weather in order to monitor and maintain our satellites.

Analyzing the Study:

Aditya L1 mission to the Sun, first India’s solar mission is set to be launched by the end of the year 2022. The study will aid this mission as the team of astronomers probed into the Sun’s atmosphere and found that the plasma properties and Earth arrival times of CMEs from the Sun can vary substantially. The team also conducted studies related to Earth-directed CMEs and ICMEs with data corroborated from NASA’s Stereo Spacecraft and the LASCO coronagraph located near the first Lagrangian point (L1) on the Sun-Earth line.

The study also revealed the ICME structures at the locations where different satellites are stationed; their dynamics, arrival time, plasma, and parameters are also being studied.

This study came after Chandrayaan-2 unveiled the mysteries of the inner layers of the Sun and subsequently, scientists measured the magnetic field of a mass eruption from the Sun’s atmosphere.

About India’s first Solar Mission:

Aditya L1 – A mission meant to observe the solar corona, was conceived as a 400kg satellite carrying one payload, the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC). A satellite placed around the L1, i.e, Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth has an edge to continuously view the Sun without any obstacles, occultation, or eclipses. Therefore, the mission has been revised, and now, the satellite will be inserted in a halo orbit around L1, which is approximately 1.5 million km far from the Earth. Not only this, but the satellite also carries additional six payloads with improved science scope and targets.

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