Aditya L1 in space: Solar mysteries India hopes to solve in the next 10 years

by The Technical Blogs


The sun, the heart of our solar system and the epicenter of the vast cosmic ballet in the universe, has captivated humanity with its fiery grandeur for millennia.

Our Sun’s story is a cosmic narrative of monumental scale.

Approximately 4.6 billion years ago, a massive cloud of gas and dust existed, laden with heavy metals forged in the hearts of earlier generations of stars. This colossal cloud began its ultimate collapse during this era, succumbing to the unyielding force of its own gravitational pull.

The sun was born from a sequence of events triggered by this gravitational collapse. As the temperature soared and the core of this primordial cloud contracted, nuclear fusion ignited, giving rise to the sun in a blaze of atomic fire.

Aditya L1 has been launched to lagrange point 1. (Photo: ESA)

The sun we know today is an immense cosmic furnace, primarily composed of hydrogen (roughly 74% of its mass) and helium (approximately 24%), with traces of heavier elements. Its potent gravitational pull governs the orbits and movements of the planets, moons, and countless other celestial bodies that revolve around it within our solar system.

However, the sun is far more than a simple fireball; it is a complex, dynamic entity with multiple layers and a vibrant atmosphere. At its core, temperatures reach a blistering 15 million degrees Celsius, where nuclear fusion reactions transform hydrogen into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy. This energy, manifesting as light and heat, radiates outward, sustaining life on Earth.

Encircling the core are the radiative zone and the convective zone, through which energy gradually travels to the surface. Above these layers is the sun’s visible surface, the photosphere, which emits the sunlight we observe from Earth. Beyond the photosphere, the sun’s atmosphere extends into the chromosphere and the outermost layer, the corona, where temperatures inexplicably skyrocket to several million degrees Celsius.


Let’s now delve into the enigmas that envelop our sun, mysteries we aim to unravel in the coming two decades:

Solar Abundance Problem

One of the Solar System’s profound mysteries resides within the Sun’s core. Scientists have stumbled upon a perplexing discrepancy between the observed and predicted abundances of elements such as carbon and iron. Deciphering its composition could lead to a deeper understanding of star formation, evolution, and eventual cosmic demise.

The Solar Wind

One of the most significant enigmas is the sun’s solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles that flow outward into space. Comprehending its origin and dynamics is vital, as it directly affects our technological infrastructure, especially satellite communications and power grids.

The Solar Cycle

The sun operates on an approximately 11-year cycle of activity, characterised by sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections. The precise mechanisms driving these cycles remain elusive, but solving this puzzle could enhance our ability to predict and mitigate the effects of solar storms on Earth.

The Sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period in 2015. (Photo: Nasa)

The Corona’s Temperature

Why does the corona’s temperature exceed that of the sun’s surface? This counterintuitive phenomenon, known as the “coronal heating problem,” baffles scientists. Resolving it could provide insights into the sun’s magnetic fields and their role in heating the corona.

The Solar Interior

Despite numerous advances in the study of solar vibrations or helioseismology, much about the sun’s interior remains unknown. Probing deeper into the sun’s core and understanding its rotation and magnetic fields are areas ripe for exploration.

In the next two decades, advancements in solar observation technology, such as the Aditya L1 probe from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), promise to illuminate some of these mysteries. Positioned in a Halo Orbit around the L1 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth, Aditya L1 will observe the Sun’s behavior and collect crucial data without direct exposure to the Sun’s intense environment.

The Sun, our steadfast companion, continues to inspire awe and curiosity, spurring us to reach for the stars, quite literally, as we strive to unlock its concealed truths and better navigate the grand cosmic ballet in which we all participate.

(This is an authored article by Manish Purohit. Manish is a solar energy and spacecraft solar panel expert with extensive experience in managing critical space missions, including Chandrayaan-2 and Mangalyaan)

Edited By:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published On:

Sep 12, 2023


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