India’s first-ever solar probe just beamed some striking imagery home to Earth.
Aditya-L1, the new mission from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), snapped a photo of itself in space, as well as shots of Earth and the moon. ISRO combined the footage into a video, which the agency shared on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday (Sept. 7).
Aditya-L1 launched on Sept. 2. It’s performing checkouts in low Earth orbit right now beforeheading toward its long-term destination to study the sun. (“Aditya” translates to “sun” in Sanskrit.) In about four months, the probe will arrive at Earth-sun Lagrange Point 1 (L1), a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet in the direction of the sun.
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“A satellite placed in the halo orbit around the L1 point has the major advantage of continuously viewing the sun without any occultation/eclipses,” ISRO officials wrote in an Aditya-L1 mission description. “This will provide a greater advantage of observing the solar activities and its effect on space weather in real time.”
Aditya-L1 will study the sun to learn about a few things: solar activity, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections of charged particles that can spark beautiful auroras on Earth while causing a risk to infrastructure like satellites.
Additionally, it will examine the “coronal heating problem.” That refers to the sun’s mysteriously ultra-hot outer atmosphere, which reaches temperatures around 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 million degrees Celsius), according to NASA. Other layers of the sun are not nearly so hot, presenting a mystery for scientists as to how this happens.