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Man-made Solar Eclipse on Horizon? ISRO, ESA Ready to Launch Satellites to ‘Cover’ the Sun

April 17, 2024

Leave it up to astrophysicists and scientists to come up with a way to tame even the sun, and they won’t disappoint. In a development that seems straight out of Star Wars, a team of engineers and scientists are preparing to cover a portion of the Sun, almost mimicking a solar eclipse.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is embarking on a groundbreaking mission known as “Proba-3,” which aims to artificially create an eclipse, covering a part of the Sun, to take a deeper dive solar weather and how it functions.

In the wake of the recent total solar eclipse, which captivated millions in North America, the ESA is preparing to launch two satellites, which will be stacked together, it order to study the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere surrounding the star.

The Proba-3 mission, if successful, will mark the world’s first attempt to engineer an artificial eclipse. This will mark a significant leap in solar research and has the possibility to change how we approach studying the sun. The mission involves flying two spacecraft, Coronagraph and Occulter, in a precise formation, which will then be placed in close proximity of each other, approximately 144 meters apart. Clearly, the margin for error in this mission is pretty narrow.

The Occulter spacecraft will position itself closer to the Sun, aligning to block its disc and casting a shadow over the other satellite, akin to the Moon’s shadow on the Earth during a solar eclipse. This strategic positioning will enable the observation of the Sun’s corona without any interference from direct sunlight.

Once the satellites capture images of the inner corona region, engineers will command the stack to separate, ensuring they move into safe orbits to prevent collision.

By studying the solar corona, scientists aim to better forecast solar weather events, such as geomagnetic storms, which can disrupt satellite operations and terrestrial communication networks.

The Proba-3 mission represents a significant milestone in space exploration, demonstrating the capabilities of formation flying and shedding light on unresolved questions about solar wind dynamics. The satellites are currently undergoing final integration in Belgium before their scheduled launch aboard an ISRO-developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from India in September.

Notably, the artificial eclipses created by the Proba-3 satellites will not be observable from Earth, highlighting the mission’s unique scientific objectives.

(With inputs from agencies)

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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