China launches first solar observatory to unravel the mystery of Sun’s eruptions

Kuafu-1 Satellite: China has launched a brand-new observatory that will look into the Sun after successfully integrating its still-under-construction Space Station and approved the next stage of its lunar missions.

Key Points:

  • The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) was launched onboard a Long March-2D rocket.
  • The satellite has been named Kuafu-1, after a giant in Chinese mythology who wished to capture and tame the sun.
  • The observatory, which is about 859 kilograms lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.
  • It has been placed in an orbit about 720 kilometers above the planet.
  • It has been placed higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.
  • The satellite is launched with three major instruments, including Lyman-alpha Solar Telescope (LST), the Full-disk Vector MagnetoGraph(FMG) and the Hard X-ray Imager(HXI).
  • With the satellite now placed into orbit, a six-month-long commissioning phase will begin.
  • Then, later the science operations will commence.
  • The mission will remain in service for four years.
  • The spacecraft will examine the causality between the solar magnetic field and two major eruptive phenomena, coronal mass ejection and solar flares.
  • The mission's goal is described as 1M2B, where M stands for the solar magnetic field and the two Bs stand for two extremely violent bursts known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares.
  • About Kuafu-1:
  • The spacecraft will work for 96 per cent of the year, and since it is placed outside the planet, it will not be affected by Earth's atmosphere.
  • The spacecraft is equipped to probe the Sun 24 hours daily for most of the year.
  • From May to August, when it runs through the shadow of the Earth every day, its longest daily time-out is no longer than 18 minutes.
  • Designed to remain in service for four years, the mission will beam back about 500 gigabytes of data every day.
  • Kuafu is the fourth big mission exploring the Sun after Nasa Parker Solar Probe, which has been getting closer to the Sun alongside European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter and China's own Xihe probe, which was launched in 2021.
  • The spacecraft seeks to reveal the Sun’s secrets and new features that probel solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

Note: India is also planning to launch a mission dedicated to the Sun, the Aditya L-1 mission will launch in 2023.

Astronomers have long been trying to better understand these phenomena, which affect space weather and their understanding is critical to saving assets in space like the International Space Station and astronauts.