India's Aditya-L1 solar mission spacecraft, launched on 2 September, has started collecting scientific data to help scientists with solar explorations, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) announced on Monday. India's first space-based solar observatory is scheduled to break free from Earth's gravitational influence on Tuesday.
The data collection is aimed to help scientists analyse the behaviour of particles surrounding Earth, Isro said. The sensors of the Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Spectrometer (Steps) instrument on board the spacecraft have started measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions and electrons at distances greater than 50,000 km from Earth, it announced in a post on X, a Press Trust of India (PTI) report said. This distance is equivalent to more than eight times the Earth's radius, placing it beyond Earth's radiation belt region.
The collected data will help scientists analyse how particles behave around the planet, the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency said in the post. "These STEPS measurements will persist during the cruise phase of the Aditya-L1 mission as it progresses toward the Sun-Earth L1 point. They will continue once the spacecraft is positioned in its intended orbit,” Isro added. Data collected by Aditya-L1 will provide information about the origin, acceleration, and anisotropy of solar wind and space weather phenomena.
The Aditya-L1 spacecraft carries seven different payloads to study the Sun, four of them will observe the light from the Sun and the remaining will measure in situ parameters of the plasma and magnetic fields, the PTI report explains. Placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrangian Point 1 (L1), Aditya L1 will revolve around the Sun with the same relative position and hence can see the Sun continuously.
Activated on 10 September, the Steps instrument contains six sensors, each observing in different directions and measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions ranging from 20 keV/nucleon to 5 MeV/nucleon, along with electrons exceeding 1 MeV. These measurements are conducted using low and high-energy particle spectrometers.
According to Isro, the collected data will help scientists to analyse particle behaviour around the Earth, particularly in the presence of the Earth's magnetic field. The main goals of the Aditya-L1 solar mission include “understanding coupling and dynamics of the solar atmosphere and solar wind distribution and temperature anisotropy," Isro explains in the mission brochure.