China‘s first dedicated observatory for thorough solar investigation will launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 9th.
The 888-kg satellite, known as the Advanced Space-Based Solar Observatory (ASO-S), is equipped with a magnetograph, a coronagraph, and an X-ray imager. Its purpose is to solve the mysteries of solar eruptions.
China has sent satellites with individual sun-gazing instruments into space before, but the nine hundred million yuan (US$126 million) ASO-S is its first observatory with a suite of tools, according to Nature.
These will allow it to survey an important region of the Sun called the middle corona, which is the center of solar storms. To this date, this area hasn’t been completely visualized in the ultraviolet spectrum.
The observatory would be in orbit during the peak of the solar cycle in 2024 to 2025, when numerous eruptions can be observed.
China’s four-year solar observatory program
Solar observatory ASO-S has undergone more than five years of research and development.
After entering its orbit around the Earth on Sunday, ASO-S will generate about 500GB of data daily, all of which will be shared worldwide and will be free to access for the first six months of the mission.
China’s solar observatory will permanently face the Sun and will produce observations complementary to the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, launched in 2020.
— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) July 16, 2022
Designed to operate at an altitude of 720 kilometers, the satellite will complete one sun-synchronous orbit every ninety minutes, China Global Television Network (CGTN) says.
During its projected four-year lifespan, the satellite will support catastrophic space weather forecasting by observing the solar magnetic field, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections.