back to article Solar winds will help ESA probe smell what Mercury's cookin'

Researchers at the Technische Universität Wien in Austria have found that solar wind can do far more than project lights in the Earth's night sky. The work, published in the journal Icarus, found that while we on Earth are treated to displays such as the Northern Lights, bodies that lack the Earth's protective magnetic field, …

  1. Rich 11 Silver badge

    I haz a disappoint

    and a desire to avoid sending the probe screaming into the Sun

    Where's the fun in that? Flying probes into the sun is the grown-up version of lobbing big rocks into still ponds. Where's your childhood sense of joy gone, rocket scientismatists?!

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: I haz a disappoint

      They might want to do that after the sciency bits are dealt with; it's a bit troublesome to do them the other way around.

    2. Alistair

      Re: I haz a disappoint

      Well, if we're all up for flinging things "screaming into the sun" I have a *fairly* long list of candidates, mostly politicians and lawyers for some reason, although there are a couple of economics professors who may or may not be around anymore. Now all we have to do is crowdfund a falcon 9 or three......

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: I haz a disappoint

        Now all we have to do is crowdfund a falcon 9 or three......

        You'll need either a bigger rocket or a lot more of them. Probably both. The list is huge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I haz a disappoint

          No, the list is YUUUUUGE. The toddler president is most certainly on it.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: I haz a disappoint

      Throwing things into the sun is a lot harder than you might think. You have to counter out (most of) the Earth's orbital speed around the sun, which is 30km/s. As a comparison, a Falcon 9 has about 5km/s of delta V, but it needs 3km/s just to get off the Earth.

      It's probably just within our reach as a species to send a small satellite into the sun, but it'll have to be a small satellite either using a very efficient propulsion method (ion drive?), or some clever gravity assists.

      (eg Use a close flyby of Jupiter or Saturn to send your aphelion right out to the outer solar system, and then reduce your perihelion out there where the delta V requirements are low).

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I haz a disappoint

        "You have to counter out (most of) the Earth's orbital speed around the sun,"

        Once out of the earth's gravity well you can (as you rightly said) use ion drive.

        Size of the probe isn't that important. The heavier it is, the longer the ion drive needs to run, that's all (assuming you don't run out of reaction mass)

        The good thing about heading sunwards is that you can be sure of your supply of photons. Solar panels rapidly lose effectiveness when you go on the other direction.

  2. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    probes are screaming into Sun, sort of

    NASA Parker probe for one. Sampling corona etc. Definitely overcooking marshmellows at perihelion. Kudos for the engineers who built these probes to cope with heat and the mathematicians who worked out the orbital mechanics to get probes to orbits of interest.

  3. Martin Budden Bronze badge

    In space, no-one can hear you screaming into the Sun.

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