Skip to main content

If You Can't Stand the Heat...Get out of the Sun


For the past 30 years, NASA scientists have been trying get close to the sun. Dangerously close. Finally (with the help of congress), plans to launch the Solar Probe mission in 2015 are underway.

The mission will fly within 4.3 million miles of the sun, through its corona or atmosphere, one of the last unexplored regions of the solar system. The corona is several times hotter than the surface of the sun, and how it's heated remains a mystery. Scientists hope the Solar Probe will provide some answers. In addition, the probe will study how solar wind is accelerated, by studying the rapid flow of particles it continuously blasts into space.

If being barraged by radiation and immensely hot temperatures doesn't sound fun to you, it's probably not fun for most astronauts either. Researchers are designing a carbon composite heat shield that will be able to protect the 992 pound spacecraft from 2,552 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

The Solar Probe will collect data useful to scientists for analyzing space radiation, and how damaging this environment might be for future explorers. Dangerous levels of radiation have always posed a threat to astronauts- once they are beyond the protective shield of the earth's magnetic core the risk of human cell damage and even death is much greater. The more scientists can learn about solar radiation, the safer future space missions will be, and the Solar Probe is the first step towards that goal.

Comments

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know:
"What's going on in this video? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream.

(We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux)

Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?