India’s Aditya-L1 solar mission spacecraft has started gathering data on the behavior of particles surrounding Earth, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The sensors on board the spacecraft’s Supra Thermal & Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) instrument have begun measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions and electrons at distances greater than 50,000 km from Earth. This data will assist scientists in analyzing the particles’ behavior and how they interact with Earth’s magnetic field.
STEPS is a key component of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle EXperiment (ASPEX) payload. These measurements will be ongoing during the Aditya-L1 mission’s cruise phase, as it moves closer to the Sun-Earth L1 point. Once the spacecraft is in its intended orbit, the data collected around the L1 point will provide valuable insights into the origin, acceleration, and anisotropy of solar wind and space weather phenomena.
The STEPS instrument was developed by the Physical Research Laboratory with support from the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad. Aditya-L1, launched on September 2 via a PSLV-C57 rocket, carries seven different payloads designed to study the Sun. Four of these payloads will observe the Sun’s light, while the remaining three will measure plasma and magnetic field parameters in situ.
Aditya-L1 will be positioned in a halo orbit around Lagrangian Point 1 (L1), which is located 1.5 million km from Earth in the direction of the Sun. This strategic position will allow the spacecraft to continuously observe the Sun as it revolves around it. STEPS consists of six sensors, each observing in different directions and measuring supra-thermal and energetic ions and electrons. These measurements cover a wide range of energies, from 20 keV/nucleon to 5 MeV/nucleon for ions and above 1 MeV for electrons.
The data collected by STEPS during Earth’s orbits will help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the particles surrounding our planet, particularly in the presence of Earth’s magnetic field. STEPS was activated on September 10 at a distance greater than 50,000 km from Earth, which is well beyond Earth’s radiation belt region.
– Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
– The Physical Research Laboratory
– The Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad