China successfully launches its first solar observatory

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China successfully launched its first comprehensive space-based solar telescope called the Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) on Sunday. 

The observatory has been nicknamed Kuafu-1, after a giant in Chinese mythology who wished to capture and tame the Sun, reports Sputnik quoting the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

It was launched using the Long March-2D carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

The mission which is expected to last four years will allow scientists to capture and study previously unprecedented images of the Sun during “solar maximum” or its most active phase which is expected to peak around 2025.

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ASO-S is China’s first full-scale instrument dedicated to studying Earth’s closest star. As per Zhu Cheng, the chief engineer of the ASO-S platform system it is also the world’s first solar telescope in space that can simultaneously monitor solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

Kuafu-1 will observe the Sun from an orbit 720 kilometres (447 miles) above Earth’s surface and will provide critical insights into the sun’s two most violent activities.

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China Daily reports that it would also provide data on the powerful radiation and magnetic fields generated by these phenomena and help scientists understand how these affect the sensitive equipment on Earth and in orbit equipment like satellites, electronics, power grids and internet services.

The mission joins the ranks of other sun-gazing space observatories launched by various countries: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, and the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter. By next year (2023) India is planning to launch a similar mission called Aditya-L1 to study the solar atmosphere.

(With inputs from agencies)

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