India launches space mission to study activity on the sun

India launched a probe to study the sun on Saturday — the next step in its space program after sending a rover to land on the moon’s south pole last month.

Aditya-L1 will attempt to station itself in between the Earth and the sun at Lagrange Point L1, a spot in space just under a million miles from Earth where the gravitational fields of the two should be able to keep the probe nearly perfectly still.

“The vehicle has placed the satellite precisely into its intended orbit. India’s first solar observatory has begun its journey to the destination of Sun-Earth L1 point,” ISRO, the Indian space agency, posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Once in position after about four months of transit, the probe will use its seven scientific payloads to observe different aspects of our Solar System’s star, including its corona — the outermost parts of its atmosphere — and solar wind phenomena.

“Those seven payloads are going to study the sun as a star in all the possible spectrum positions that we have visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray,” former ISRO scientist Manish Purohit told The Associated Press. “It’s like we’re going to get a black and white image, the color image and the high-definition image, 4K image of the sun, so that we don’t miss out on anything that is happening on the sun,” Purohit said.

India’s moon probe last month was the first craft to successfully land near the moon’s south pole, a region which scientists believe could hold frozen water reserves.

The agency announced Saturday that the rover has now traveled over 100 meters on the moon’s surface and completed its first set of missions, an important milestone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised his country’s recent space achievements in a social media statement saturday.

“After the success of Chandrayaan-3, India continues its space journey. Congratulations to our scientists and engineers at ISRO for the successful launch of India’s first Solar Mission, Aditya -L1,” Modi said. “Our tireless scientific efforts will continue in order to develop better understanding of the Universe for the welfare of entire humanity.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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