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NASA Plans Probe to the Sun 352

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hope-they-bring-suntan-lotion dept.
FudRucker writes "For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there. 'We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time,' says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. 'This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts.'"
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NASA Plans Probe to the Sun

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  • by baldass_newbie (136609) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:52PM (#23751269) Homepage Journal
    Airplane 2.
    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:06PM (#23751585) Homepage Journal
      "This won't hurt you as much as it hurts me!"
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:31PM (#23752131)
      NASA knows the probe will burn up in the sun, so that's why they plan to land it at night.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by MikeDirnt69 (1105185)
        You're wrong. They will do during the next full eclipse.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        A quick impression of the first man to ever land on the sun: "Ow, ow! Shit, FUCK! It's HOT!"
  • Okay? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:52PM (#23751273)
    And how exactly do you plan to do that? Do we have any material that won't melt under the intense heat?
    • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Funny)

      by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:53PM (#23751297)
      It's easy, we'll just go at night
    • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:55PM (#23751325)
      One could dissipate heat by having hundreds of monofilament wires to wick the heat away from such craft. Doing that should provide more time for the sensor array to gather and transmit more data.

      Of course, we could select Tom Cruise and other scientologists as crew.
      • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CogDissident (951207) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:00PM (#23751435)
        wick the heat "where"? The area around the sun is "all" over several thousand degrees, the size of those wires would have to be measured in hundreds of miles.
        • by Bearpaw (13080) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:26PM (#23752055)
          Seriously, though, it's not quite that simple. "The area around the sun" is very hot, but it's not very dense. IANAThermalEngineer, but I imagine they have one or two at NASA, and I'm guessing that they can come up with some kind of effective radiative cooling system. (Though perhaps they'll just rely on a Thermal Protective System (aka "heat shield"), like they did for the original Solar Probe [nasa.gov].)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Bryansix (761547)
        Can we vote that you join the crew too for having that stupid signature. (Note: No I didn't click it)
        • Before you get modded Off-Topic, I'll say the links are funny and clever. Glad you weren't fooled by them too! ;) I used to pull that stunt all the time in an old vBull forum I haunted. Just build a cool looking, dare-you-not-to-click-me front end to the logout link. Simple *and* funny. It's worth it just to have one stupid person accidentally log out. Imagine a world like that...

          And to be on-topic:

          Three words: giant oven mitts!
      • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @03:49PM (#23753559) Journal

        I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal of landing a man on the Sun and returning him back safely to the earth.
        George W. Bush, June 2008
    • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Eudial (590661) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:56PM (#23751359)

      And how exactly do you plan to do that? Do we have any material that won't melt under the intense heat?
      It isn't that hot. The surface is merely 5800 K. We achieve and contain that sort of temperature on a regular basis here on earth.

      The problem isn't to contain such a temperature, but to do it in a way that is compatible with space travel (i.e. not involving heavy and brittle insulation.)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        We just have to invent the forcefield.
      • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Informative)

        by e2d2 (115622) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:16PM (#23751799)
        Yes the surface is only around 5800K, hot enough to melt any known material. But the corona surrounding the surface is over 10^6K. I'm curious how they intend to handle such intense energy. Not just heat energy, but insane amounts of radiation across the spectrum. This will be quite interesting from an engineering standpoint.

        • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:19PM (#23751867) Homepage Journal
          Since the corona isn't dense enough for the heat to be a problem, all they have to worry about is the radiation. Since that's all coming from the same direction, they can just hide behind something (the thing labeled "thermal shield" in the picture).
        • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Funny)

          by suggsjc (726146) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:25PM (#23752017) Homepage
          Ugh, I barely like corona when it is ice cold...that has got to taste awful.

          But I guess if they can figure out how to bottle it and get it back to earth, then I guess that will change the whole "free as in beer" saying.
          • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by apoc.famine (621563) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (enimaf.copa)> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @05:45PM (#23755261) Homepage Journal
            Not to inject off-topic facts into this discussion, (ok, I can't resist it) but Corona is one of the worst beers ever.

            You see, there are three major things (aside from frat boys) which ruin beer: heat, (not too hard to work around) oxygen, and light.

            Corona is in a clear bottle in a low six-pack, with a twist-top. The twist-top is far worse at sealing out oxygen, the low cardboard lets in more light, and the clear bottle lets in even more.

            How do you fix these problems? Jack it full of preservatives, and then market the culture of the beer to revolve around adding some citric acid to hide that shitty taste. Compare Corona against a well crafted, all natural ale, and most people can taste the shite in it. For instance, try really seriously comparing Corona against a good Belgian white ale. The taste difference is amazing.

            God I've turned into a beer snob. Hand-crafted Belgian ales ftw.
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          The other problem is how to cool the probe. No matter how well you insulate the probe it will very quickly over heat because there is no way to dump the heat the probe it's self generates.
          Stick any electronics into a sealed well insulated case and see just how long it stays running.
        • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Informative)

          by ahecht (567934) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:52PM (#23752519) Homepage

          But they're not entering the corona. From TFA:

          At closest approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures greater than 1400o C and survive blasts of radiation at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft.
          I'm not saying 1400 degrees isn't hot, but it's not unmanagable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Not just heat energy, but insane amounts of radiation across the spectrum.

          The tech they develop for radiation protection for this sun probe should be a great asset for any man on Mars mission. Cosmic radiation and solar storms will be as major hurdle to extended manned space missions outside of earth's magnetosphere. I should hope that the solar probe has magnetic shielding, just to get a high stress test of tech.
          • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @03:42PM (#23753433) Journal

            I should hope that the solar probe has magnetic shielding, just to get a high stress test of tech.
            Magnetic shielding would be advantageous. Especially since the majority of the particles coming from the sun appear to be charged. However, the objectives of the mission state that it intends to study magnetic fields and the charged particles from the sun. These objectives would be difficult to meet with magnetic shielding.

            Plus, it wasn't mentioned in TFA.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thelasko (1196535)
          My guess is that the Venus flybys are the answer. They fly the probe into the shadow of Venus and get it cold (remember only radiation transfers heat in space so the shade of Venus should be very cold). Then the probe points it's heat shield at the sun and makes a pass to collect data. Remember, heat transfer is not instantaneous. Because it's 10^6K outside does not mean it's instantly 10^6K inside. It simply means that the time it takes to reach, for example, 5800K is shorter than the time it would ta
          • Saying that the shade of Venus is very cold, paints a rather mis-leading picture. It's not the same thing as staying in, say, really cold air. As you say, only radiation transfers heat in space, so _all_ the cooling effect you're going to get is whatever the craft radiates. That's not very much. It also depends of the fourth square of temperature, as per Steffan-Boltzman, it's a lot harder to lose the last (or next to last) 10% than it is to lose the first 10%.

            But more importantly, you start gaining it righ
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Felgerkarb (695336)
        As mentioned before, the corona is much much hotter than the surface. But still not an issue in this case. From the FTA:

        "At closest approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures greater than 1400o C and survive blasts of radiation at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft."
        Still lots of engineering issues, though.
    • Re:Okay? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Wandering Wombat (531833) <mightyjalapeno@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:58PM (#23751413) Homepage Journal
      No, what we need is some sort of material that can reflect away the radiation, and also has a ridiculously high specific heat. Hmmm, what could we use to reflect electromagnetic radiation... hmmm, something reflective... what do have that's reflective? Anyone?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:TPScube.jpg [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zymergy (803632) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:09PM (#23751653)
      No. Not Really.
      And certainly not at the temperature of the Sun's corona (which probes will most likely have to travel through to get to the inner 'cooler' layers..)
      This is where we need 'shielding' technology similar to Star Trek, or to jump physical dimensions directly into the desired location with technology similar to Event Horizon, etc..

      "The coolest layer of the Sun is a temperature minimum region about 500 km above the photosphere, with a temperature of about 4,000 K." ... "Above the temperature minimum layer is a thin layer about 2,000 km thick, dominated by a spectrum of emission and absorption lines. It is called the chromosphere..." ... "Above the chromosphere is a transition region in which the temperature rises rapidly from around 100,000 K to coronal temperatures closer to one million K." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun [wikipedia.org]

      "The chemical element with the highest melting point is tungsten, at 3695 K (3422 C, 6192 F) making it excellent for use as filaments in light bulbs. The often-cited carbon does not melt at ambient pressure but sublimates at about 4000 K; a liquid phase only exists above pressures of 10 MPa and estimated 4300-4700 K. Tantalum hafnium carbide (Ta4HfC5) is a refractory compound with a very high melting point of 4488 K (4215 C, 7619 F)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_point [wikipedia.org]
      Even diamonds are not tough enough... Above 1700 C (1973 K / 3583 F) diamonds are converted into graphite.
      • Re:Okay? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:20PM (#23751905) Homepage

        Even diamonds are not tough enough... Above 1700 C (1973 K / 3583 F) diamonds are converted into graphite.

        I guess I need to buy a pack of pencils and throw them in the freezer. I'll be rich overnight!
      • by merreborn (853723)

        Even diamonds are not tough enough... Above 1700 C (1973 K / 3583 F) diamonds are converted into graphite.
        But, diamond is one of the hardest metals (If not THE hardest metal) known the man!
      • by HighOrbit (631451)
        How about layering? Each layer will eventually fail and burn off as it passes through the corona, but it would buy time for the layers beneath. Since you would be traveling at increadible speeds, you would only have to buy a finite amount of time before you reached the lower cooler surface zone. It would be quite bulky, but could be assembled in orbit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by k33l0r (808028)
      RTFA.

      "At closest approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures greater than 1400 degrees C and survive blasts of radiation at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft."

    • by Kingrames (858416)
      No, just a big heatsink.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      And how exactly do you plan to do that? Do we have any material that won't melt under the intense heat?
      From TFA:

      At closest approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures greater than 1400 C
      In short: don't get close enough to melt.
  • Can we (Score:5, Funny)

    by Diss Champ (934796) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:53PM (#23751289)
    select a few of our favorite people as crew for that mission?
  • Sweet!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by porkUpine (623110)
    I volunteer my boss to be the first asshole on the sun!
  • Solar Power (Score:5, Funny)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:55PM (#23751335)
    I guess providing power to the device via solar power would be a good option.

    After all...It will be right next to the source.
  • by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:56PM (#23751367) Homepage Journal
    My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Smithers: Well, Sir, you've certainly vanquished all your enemies: the Elementary School, the local tavern, the old age home...you must be very proud.

      Burns: No, not while my greatest nemesis still provides our customers with free light, heat and energy. I call this enemy...the sun.
      Since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing...block it out!

  • replete... (Score:5, Funny)

    by rodney dill (631059) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:57PM (#23751387) Journal

    Solar Probe+'s repeated plunges into the corona will be accomplished by means of Venus flybys.

    ...with sexual connotations.
  • by slashmojo (818930) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:57PM (#23751389)
    SPF Eleventy Million
  • by orclevegam (940336) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:59PM (#23751421) Journal

    'We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time,'
    As opposed to all those dead stars we've been visiting recently.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:59PM (#23751427)
    I would imagine most things would be, as I strongly suspect the charts to burn up prior to impact.
  • One could say the sun is exhaling, but what's it inhaling?
  • by nguy (1207026)
    They ought to wait for the development of the metaphasic shield [memory-alpha.org] in 2369.
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:03PM (#23751525) Homepage Journal
    "That's hot!"
  • by Chemisor (97276) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:04PM (#23751539)
    With NASA's record, they ought to have named this project "Icarus", 'cause that's what will happen to it.
    • by CheeseTroll (696413) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:12PM (#23751749)
      Naming it 'Daedalus' would be more optimistic, don't you think?

      Either way, hopefully they won't build the heat shield out of wax!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by CarlosHawes (1256490)
        "Icarus" was the name of the spacecraft sent to kick start the sun with a massive nuclear device in the 2007 film "Sunshine" (EXCELLENT movie INHO). At the risk of spoilers, let's just say that all kinds of things go wrong :)
  • by proxima (165692)
    The name of the mission is Solar Probe+; I can't decide whether a name like Icarus would be more appropriate. Then again, naming your project after something that burns up might not be the best idea.

    Of course, when the mission is done I would expect them to send the craft into the sun.
  • by snarfies (115214) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:05PM (#23751577) Homepage
    1) The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
    2) A gigantic nuclear furnace, where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees.
    3) The sun is hot - the sun it not a place where we can live, but here on Earth there'd be no life without the light it gives.
  • I know the surface is like 6000C or so, but I thought the corona was in the millions of degrees. I don't see how they'd get anything close enough to it before the corona vapourised it.

    If you go here [hypertextbook.com]

    there's this data:

    "Gas particles in the corona can reach temperatures of up to 1,700,000 ÂC"

    - Prentice Hall Earth Science. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1987: 73.

    So wouldn't that tend to prevent anything man made from getting near the sun, much less its "surface" / chromosphere?

    RS

    • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:14PM (#23751775) Homepage Journal

      I know the surface is like 6000C or so, but I thought the corona was in the millions of degrees. I don't see how they'd get anything close enough to it before the corona vapourised it.

      If you go here [hypertextbook.com]

      [snip]

      So wouldn't that tend to prevent anything man made from getting near the sun, much less its "surface" / chromosphere?

      RS

      From your own link: Though the corona's temperature is high it's molecules are so far apart that the gases release little heat. If a person were to stand on the sun's corona they wouldn't burn, they would freeze in the near vacuum of the corona.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by NeoSkandranon (515696)
        What about radiant heat?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by swimsaturn (1239646)
        Though the corona's temperature is high it's molecules are so far apart that the gases release little heat. If a person were to stand on the sun's corona they wouldn't burn, they would freeze in the near vacuum of the corona.
        Oh, they'd burn alright - but it would be a really bad tan. The side facing the Sun would absorb insane amounts of radiation; the side facing away would freeze... A good example (though far away from the corona): the extreme surface temperatures of Mercury, depending on the amount o
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by frogzilla (1229188)
      The particles have a high temperature (are moving quickly) but the particle density is low. Therefore the heat will be small. Heat is the flow of energy from a hotter body to a cooler body.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Firehed (942385)
      That's a 21-year-old textbook. I think it's had plenty of time to cool off.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:08PM (#23751633) Journal
    The scientists and astrophysicists themselves agree that the Sun is going to become a Red Giant and it will expand past the orbit of Jupiter. Instead of just setting up the instruments and wait for the Sun to come to us, these typical, arrogant, pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower, disconnected elites are coming up with yet another proposal to tax and spend out tax dollars. Enough!. Just wait. What is 5 billion years to a government program? I ask.

  • ...Icarus.


    But I bet it was suggested repeatedly.

  • In the news: "NASA Scientists discover trace possibilities of water on the sun, 3 more trips planned"
  • "...man has yearned to destroy the sun"
  • ..just don't put any trilithium on it k?
  • "It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only our own wave, but plankton of peace of all waves, plankton with interest and curiosity and plankton with vision for the future."

    -- John Sladek, The Müller-Fokker Effect. (A very funny SF book)

  • Fortunately, the incidental music [ufoseries.com] has already been written.
  • Results (Score:4, Funny)

    by sgilti (668665) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @02:43PM (#23752351)
    "I'm sorry NASA, but the Princess is in another solar system."
  • I guess they decided to stick that probe where the sun does shine...call the probe the Enimator?
  • Should have been named "NASA Plans to get Hott".
    Yeah.
    That would have grabbed my attention. Hott... with 2 t's.

    On a serious note, I hope this will be a manned mission?
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @03:22PM (#23753077)
    The recent science fiction movie Sunshine described taking a special spacecraft close to the Sun. The premise of the movie and final resolution were bogus to me. However the issues of near solar travel and the special effects were interesting.
  • by DnemoniX (31461) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @03:42PM (#23753423)
    You can't have a good story about probing without mention of Uranus...
  • by AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @04:29PM (#23754181)
    Awesome, it's Earth's first Class 4 probe [memory-alpha.org].
  • by I don't want to spen (638810) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @12:04AM (#23759103) Journal
    My God, It's full of star

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