let’s go to the sun!


I heard on Planetary Radio about a fabulous trip to a star. NASA’s Solar Probe One will come within 3.7 million miles of the sun. It’s hot at that distance–2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe will have a carbon foam shield to use as a sunshade. What’s carbon foam? I don’t know. It sounds like what you’d get on top of an extremely burned latte. A NASA site calls it a “4.5-inch-thick, carbon-carbon carbon foam solar shield.” Three carbons in a row there. I’d call it very “carbony” if I wanted to use technical language. Here’s a place that makes the stuff.

The spacecraft also has movable solar panels, so it can hide them behind the shield to avoid too much heat and overload. One mystery to solve–why is the area around the sun called the corona hotter than the surface of the sun? The surface can be about 5,000 degrees, while the corona, though farther away, can be a couple million degrees. Be patient for more information, because Solar Probe One may not leave Earth before 2018 and then will make seven Venus flybys to gain momentum. Maybe 15 years before the data comes in if all goes as planned.

Here’s one concept of what the craft would look like.


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