Scientists laud IAF efforts on eclipse study

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New Delhi, July 22(ANI): Scientist across the country on Wednesday applauded the Indian Air Force for successfully undertaking aerial sorties to help scientists undertake the study of the total solar eclipse that took place on Wednesday morning.

The IAF had flown two separate missions from Agra and Gwalior towards the endeavour that was deemed hugely successful by scientists associated with the experiment.

"The mission was a huge success. We got excellent footage of the eclipse. This was made possible by the perfect planning and execution by the IAF pilots", said Dr.Vinay B. Kamble, Director, Vigyan Prasar while addressing media persons at Agra airbase after the flight.

While one AN-32 transport aircraft from Agra had carried scientific equipment, cameras and scientists, a Mirage-2000 trainer from Gwalior took spectacular images of the celestial spectacle from a height of 40,000 feet.

With weather being clear at the altitudes and coordinates planned by the IAF pilots, both AN-32 and Mirage-2000 pilots were able to accomplish the mission successfully.

The AN-32 was flown at 25,000 feet in a south-westerly course from abeam Khajuraho, descending and aligning along the central axis of the eclipse. The Mirage-2000 fighter flew at an altitude of 42,000 feet bisecting the central axis in a north-south direction to film the eclipse.

As the aircraft flew above Patni near Khajuraho the ramp of the aircraft was opened for about 15 minutes for the scientists to film the entire stages of the eclipse and study the coronal features.

The sky turned dark as the moon covered the sun and the solar corona changed into various shapes and sizes in those fleeting few minutes. The most beautiful among them was the diamond shaped corona. The coronal sequence was well captured by the lensman.

"Since flying with the ramp open involves depressurisation, inhaling of oxygen separately becomes absolutely necessary at that altitude. We flew a practise mission to train everyone for the sortie," said Wing Commander D Singh, Captain of the historic flight.

"Ensuring the Sun at six-o-clock position at the correct angle for cameras to be able to catch the phenomenon demanded a high degree of accuracy in flying," he added.

Four scientists from Vigyan Prasar, Udaipur Solar Observatory and Indian Institute of Astrophysics apart from six camerapersons were on board to carry out experiments and film the solar eclipse.

"Solar eclipse is an opportunity in which solar corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun can be studied. The corona comprises gas of one million degree generated by the solar magnetic field. These days the sun is least active and so is the solar magnetic field. In this we wanted to see what the corona looks like when the solar magnetic field is less active. We were excited to see this and took pictures," said Venkata Krishnana, Head of Udaipur Solar Observatory.

Scientists said as the sun is in its least active period, they expected a lesser bright corona. And it turned out as they had expected.

According to Dr Vinay B. Kamle, this study was very important to know as the size of the corona changes every year. If the sun is active then the corona will be bigger, if the sun is less active then the corona will be smaller.

The data collected from these experiments would be helpful in conducting a comparative study with the results of the next solar eclipse which will be after a century. (ANI)

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