The Indian space observatory Aditya-L1, launched on September 2nd, has begun collecting scientific data on solar wind. The instrument responsible for this task is the Supra Thermal & Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS), which is part of the payload of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle EXperiment (ASPEX).

STEPS consists of six sensors that observe in different directions and measure energetic ions, suprathermal particles, and electrons. These sensors use low and high-energy particle spectrometers to carry out their measurements. With the data collected during orbits around Earth, scientists can analyze the behavior of the particles surrounding our planet, especially in the presence of the Earth’s magnetic field.

On September 10th, 2023, STEPS was activated at a distance greater than 50,000 km from Earth, more than 8 times the Earth’s radius, moving away from the Earth’s radiation belt region. After completing the necessary checks, data collection continued until the spacecraft moved further away from Earth.

Each unit of STEPS is functioning properly, and measurements representing variations in the energetic particle environment within Earth’s magnetosphere have been obtained. These measurements will persist during the cruise phase of the Aditya-L1 mission as the spacecraft advances towards the Sun-Earth L1 point, 1.5 million kilometers away.

Once in its planned orbit, the data collected around the L1 point will provide information on the origin, acceleration, and anisotropy of solar wind, and space weather phenomena.

Sources: ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation)