NASA is going to send a spacecraft up to “touch the sun”
You know when you take your Fray Bentos pie out of the oven, and while it’s sitting there on your plate, you can’t help but just gaze at that scorching hot grill tray, eyes full of wonder, desperate to touch it? A quick boop on that steaming lattice would be OK, right? A tiny little tap wouldn’t hurt, would it? A quick glance of your index finger on the boiling metal? A swift check on the edge?
You’ve done it, and you’ve burnt yourself. Your finger is under the tap and your pie is going cold. Hey, at least you know that ovens are hot now.
This is certainly something I’ve done, and it’s far from the only hot thing I’ve wanted to touch, and subsequently touched. Candle flames in pubs, the grid on a hair-dryer, the actual hob, a light bulb that’s been on for an hour, a pint glass fresh from an interrupted dishwasher cycle, the end of a cigarette, the inside rim of a toilet hand-dryer. I like touching hot things and burning myself, basically.
But the hottest thing that I would like to touch, is the sun. I would like to touch it because it is the hottest thing in the universe. It is so hot that nobody has ever been there. It is a literal ball of fire.
But what is the hottest part of the sun?
Page 3. BONG.
No, bad newspapers aside, it’s the core, and it reaches temperatures of around 15 million Kelvin, which is approximately 14,999,726 degrees celsius. Bare hot, basically. Too hot for anyone to touch.
But it seems that someone else shares my curiosity for things that are hot, and that someone, is NASA. I know this because they will be holding a press conference on Wednesday about their plans to “touch the sun”.
Essentially, they want to send a spacecraft up to the sun that will orbit the corona, which is the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere. The corona is a good 500,000 degrees celsius, which for some reason, is actually hotter than the surface, which is only about 5500 degrees.
Once up there, it will collect valuable data about how hot it is, how sweaty it gets, and how tempting it is to touch, presumably.
NASA said about the plan:
“Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work.
“The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.”
Obviously, what with it being an absolute hot box up there, the craft is going to have to withstand some pretty hench temperatures – it will do this by wearing a 11.5cm-thick carbon composite shield, which is what I wore in the office on a sunny day once. It actually made me hotter so I’m not sure what these so-called “scientists” think they’re playing at.
The press conference will be at the The Solar Probe Plus event, and will take place at the University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Center Auditorium. The whole thing will be streamed live on the old internet, so if you fancy watching, head on over to NASA’s website on Wednesday. It’s the hottest ticket in town. BONG BONG BONG.