ISRO Solar Mission: Aditya L1 Commences Scientific Data Collection With ‘STEPS’ Instrument

(Photo: ISRO, Twitter)

New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday made a significant announcement, revealing that the Aditya-L1 mission has officially begun its crucial phase of gathering scientific data.

Taking to X (formerly known as Twitter), ISRO wrote, “The sensors of the STEPS instrument have begun measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions and electrons at distances greater than 50,000 km from Earth.This data helps scientists analyze the behaviour of particles surrounding Earth.The figure displays variations in the energetic particle environment, collected by one of the units.”

The Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) instrument is a part of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle EXperiment (ASPEX) payload. STEPS was developed by the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) with support from the Space Application Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad.

STEPS comprises six sensors, each observing in different directions and measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions ranging from 20 keV/nucleon to 5 MeV/nucleon, in addition to electrons exceeding 1 MeV.

The data collected during Earth’s orbits will help scientists analyse the behaviour of particles surrounding the Earth, especially in the presence of its magnetic field of Earth.

“STEPS was activated on September 10, 2023, at a distance greater than 50,000 km from Earth. This distance is equivalent to more than 8 times the Earth’s radius, placing it well beyond Earth’s radiation belt region. After completing the necessary instrument health checks, data collection continued until the spacecraft had moved farther than 50,000 km from Earth,” said ISRO.

Each unit of STEPS is operating within normal parameters. A figure displays measurements depicting variations in the energetic particle environment within Earth’s magnetosphere, collected by one of the units. These STEPS measurements will persist during the cruise phase of the Aditya-L1 mission as it progresses towards the Sun-Earth L1 point. Data collected around L1 would provide insights into the origin, acceleration, and anisotropy of solar wind and space weather phenomena.

The Aditya-L1 orbiter lifted off successfully from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on September 2.

Aditya L1 will be the first space-based Indian mission to study the sun. The spacecraft will be placed in a halo orbit around Lagrange point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system, which is about 1.5 million km from the Earth.

The spacecraft holds seven payloads for studying the sun’s photosphere, chromosphere, and the outermost layers of the sun (the corona). These tools include detectors for electromagnetic and particle observation, as well as magnetic field measurements.

The payloads include, Visible Emission Line Coronagraph(VELC), Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT), Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS), High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer(HEL1OS), Aditya Solar wind Particle Experiment(ASPEX), Plasma Analyser Package For Aditya (PAPA), and Advanced Tri-axial High Resolution Digital Magnetometers.

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