India’s maiden solar mission, Aditya-L1, has achieved another significant milestone. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said in a statement on 7 November that Aditya-L1 captured its first high-energy X-ray glimpse of solar flares, using the HEL1OS instrument, which is on-board the spacecraft.
In a post on X, Isro said: “During its first observation period from approximately 12:00 to 22:00 UT on October 29, 2023, the High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS) on board Aditya-L1 has recorded the impulsive phase of solar flares. The recorded data is consistent with the X-ray light curves provided by NOAA's GOES.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (or GOES) have provided continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity (space weather) since the 1970s.
According to Isro, the HEL1OS (High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer) instrument, commissioned on October 27, 2023, is currently undergoing fine-tuning of thresholds and calibration operations. The instrument is set to monitor the Sun's high-energy X-ray activity with fast timing and high-resolution spectra, the space agency said, adding that HEL1OS was developed by the Space Astronomy Group of the U. R. Rao Satellite Centre, Isro, Bengaluru. The space agency said that HEL1OS data enables researchers to study explosive energy release and electron acceleration during impulsive phases of solar flares.
Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. According to US space agency Nasa, these flares can last anywhere between minutes to hours.
According to Isro, flares produce enhanced emission in all wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum – radio, optical, UV, soft X-rays, hard X-rays and gamma-rays. Flare emission consists of emissions from accelerated particles and hot plasma. Aditya-L1 is designed for providing remote observations of the solar corona and in-situ observations of the solar wind at L1 (Sun-Earth Lagrangian point), which is about 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, a Press Trust of India report explained.
Launched on 2 September this year, Aditya-L1 will stay approximately 1.5 million km away from Earth, directed towards the Sun, which is about 1% of the Earth-Sun distance. Aditya-L1 will neither land on the Sun nor approach the Sun any closer, the Indian space agency explained in its mission details.