India's solar observing mission has entered the sun's orbit after a four-month journey, the latest success for the space exploration ambitions of the world's most populous country.
The Aditya-L1 mission was launched in September and carries a suite of instruments to measure and observe the Sun's outer layers.
Indian Minister of Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh, said on social media that the probe has reached its final orbit to “discover the secrets of communication between the Sun and the Earth.”
The United States and the European Space Agency have sent many probes to the center of the solar system, starting with NASA's Pioneer program in the 1960s. Japan and China have also launched their own solar observatory missions into Earth orbit.
But the Indian Space Research Organization's latest mission is the first of its kind for any country in Asia to be placed in orbit around the sun.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the project as another milestone in the Indian space programme. “It is a testament to the continued dedication of our scientists,” he said on social media. “We will continue to pursue new frontiers of science for the benefit of humanity.”
Aditya, named after the Hindu sun god, traveled 932,000 miles (1.5 million km) from Earth — still only 1% of the distance between Earth and the sun. It is now at a point where the gravitational forces of both celestial bodies cancel out, allowing it to remain in a stable halo orbit around the Sun.
The orbiter, which is said to have cost $48 million (£38 million), will study coronal mass ejections, a periodic phenomenon in which large amounts of plasma and magnetic energy are released from the sun's atmosphere. These explosions are so powerful that they can reach Earth and disrupt satellite operations.
The mission also aims to shed light on the dynamics of many other solar phenomena by imaging and measuring molecules in the Sun's upper atmosphere.
India has a relatively low-budget space program, but one that has grown in size and momentum since it sent the first probe into lunar orbit in 2008. In August last year, India became the first country to land an unmanned spacecraft largely near the moon. The unexplored lunar South Pole, and the fourth country to land on the moon.
India became the first Asian country to put a rover into orbit around Mars in 2014, and is expected to launch a three-day manned mission to Earth orbit later this year.
India also plans to send a joint mission with Japan to send another probe to the moon by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.
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