How this instrument from India’s first solar space mission will advance solar science
What does SUIT open up to us, after Aditya leaves for its new home, hopefully early next year, in terms of better understanding our Sun?
SUIT will observe the Sun in the 200-400 nm wavelength range. It provides observations of the Sun’s Photosphere and Chromosphere in the UV. This has not been done from space until now. There have been a few attempts in the past, but the wavelength range was limited and only a very small area of the solar disk was studied. SUIT will study the entire disk. The beauty of SUIT is that it kills two birds with one arrow.
It also provides crucial data for understanding the dynamic coupling of the magnetized solar atmosphere. It offers a new window to study mass and energy fluxes in the solar atmosphere. It will help us measure and monitor spatially resolved solar spectral irradiance in the NUV (near ultraviolet), which is essential for understanding the relationship between the Sun and climate on Earth.
Are there other solar probes that would combine well with SUIT to broaden the picture for us?
Indeed, there are several missions of this type; for example, the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and Heliospheric Magnetic Imager (HMI) aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the Interface Regions Imaging Spectrometer (IRIS), and the Solar Orbiter. SUIT will provide data in the wavelength range not fully covered by these probes.
How do we plan to open SUIT data to potential collaborators around the world to diversify expertise and investigation?
There is a data policy document that ISRO is finalizing. However, collaboration with any scientist is still possible through Principal Investigators.
Does SUIT benefit from launching into the solar neighborhood near the peak of solar cycle 25? Or is it a phase-independent cycle?
Of course, that would be helpful. As mentioned earlier, one of the goals is to monitor the spatially resolved solar spectral irradiance of the Sun. Therefore, it is important that we can monitor at least half of the cycle.
You went to IAUGA 2022 in Busan, Korea and delivered two guest lectures – could you briefly highlight the takeaways or overall message from the lectures?
Yes, I gave a talk at the UAI symposium on “The Age of Multi-Messenger Solar Physics” and another on the day of the Solar and Heliospheric Physics Division. These discussions covered all of the science of the Aditya-L1 mission and not just SUIT.
Both conferences were well received. There were issues related to timelines for reporting data to the international community and so on. The questions revealed that the international community is very interested in the data and information that the payloads of the Aditya-L1 mission will provide.
You said the talks “created enormous interest”. What piqued the interest of the global solar community?
The uniqueness of the set of observations that Aditya-L1 will provide. The unprecedented combination of spectral and temporal coverage and observation rate offered by SUIT will create truly new science in the dynamics of solar atmospheric energy.
So SUIT looks good for Aditya-L1 launch in 2023?
In fact, so far so good. Still, keep in mind that this is a very difficult payload to build, but we have assembled a very talented team to deliver it.