China launches Kuafu-1 satellite to unravel secrets of the sun

China has launched a new satellite to view the sun in a new light and unravel the secrets of the star in our solar system.

India Today Web Desk

New Delhi,UPDATED: 10 Oct 2022 12:17 IST

China space mission sun

China’s new mission will reveal the secrets of the sun. (Photo: NASA)

By India Today Web Desk: After the successful integration of the space station under construction and the approval of the next phase of its lunar missions, China has launched a new observatory that will look into the sun. The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) was launched aboard a Long March-2D rocket.

Nicknamed Kuafu-1, after a giant in Chinese mythology that chased the sun, the observatory is placed in orbit about 720 kilometers above the planet, higher than the orbit of the International Space Station. The observatory, which weighs about 859 kilograms, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

Now that the satellite is in orbit, a six-month commissioning phase will begin, after which scientific operations will begin. The spacecraft will study the causality between the Sun’s magnetic field and two major eruption phenomena: solar flares and coronal mass ejections, Xinhua said.

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Kuafu-1 has been launched with three major instruments, including the Lyman-alpha Solar Telescope (LST), the Hard X-ray Imager (HXI) and the Full-disk Vector MagnetoGraph (FMG). The mission’s scientific target has been described as 1M2B, where M refers to the Sun’s magnetic field and two Bs for two violent outbursts, the solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

The mission took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. (Representative image)

The spacecraft will operate 96 percent of the year, and since it will be placed outside the planet, it will not be affected by Earth’s atmosphere.

“ASO-S is capable of surveying the sun 24 hours a day for most of the year. The longest daily timeout is no more than 18 minutes when it briefly passes through the sun’s shadow every day from May to August. Earth is walking,” Gan Weiqn, the satellite’s chief scientist told Xinhua.

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Designed to remain in service for four years, the mission will beam back approximately 500 gigabytes of data each day. China’s new mission will uncover the secrets of the sun and reveal new features that propel solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Astronomers have long sought to better understand these phenomena that affect space weather, and their understanding is critical to saving space assets such as the International Space Station and astronauts.

“Our understanding of the sun is far from profound, and how solar flares and CMEs can occur and affect our planet is still not so clear. The sun is the most well-known but the strangest star to humanity,” Gan further told Xinhua .

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Kuafu is the fourth major mission to explore the sun after NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which has moved closer to the sun, alongside the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter and China’s own Xihe probe, which launched in 2021.

India is also planning to launch a mission dedicated to the sun, the Aditya L-1 mission, which will be launched next year.

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