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The very obvious problem with sending anything to the
is that it would vaporise ages before it got near. Or
Sunspots are cooler than the rest of the photosphere, at
800 K. This is, amazingly, actually below the triple
(melting) point of some solid substances such as
carbide and tantalum hafnium carbide, which have
"melting" points of 4 150 K and 4 263 K respectively. And
yes, everyone can use the internet and read Wikipedia,
no original idea yet.
The idea, then, is this: make a vehicle of some
_entirely_ out of one of these substances, so it's entirely
mechanical, possibly a clockwork ornithopter with
furled wings. Get as close to the sun as you can get with
conventional spacecraft, then fire the clockwork
ornithopter at great speed towards a sunspot, possibly
encased in a large block of frozen hydrogen. When it
approaches the surface of the sun, decelerate it with a
solar sail consisting of a very thin polished tungsten
membrane, which will of course vaporise. The
then flies across the sunspot.
There are a few issues with this:
This device would have to be entirely mechanical. That
needn't be an enormous problem as such because clearly
mechanical computers are possible. However, it is a
hard to imagine how it could be powered owing to the
that this substance is neither a conductor nor
ferromagnetic, and is also very brittle, so there's no way
could be clockwork as a spring is unfeasible. Nor can it
rocket-propelled because any rocket fuel is going to be
destroyed and possibly detonate. What I do have in
though, is a flywheel which is set in motion before
which articulates with the rest of the vehicle and powers
it, maybe with a cam belt like a bike chain.
I'll get back to the internal workings in a bit because
another pressing issue is the temperature of the solar
prominences at 20 000 K and that of the corona of a
of million K. However, temperature is not heat. The
corona is practically vacuum and the chromosphere is
pretty thin, so in fact this may not be much of an issue.
Back to the internal workings then. I envisage a flywheel
powering the entire vehicle, with a cam chain and
camshaft transferring the energy to the flapping wings
which will fly through the plasma of the sunspot. Two
pinhole cameras focus the light of the sunspot onto a
"retina" which consists of a moving cylinder of the stuff
concerned, thereby focussing an image consisting of
vaporised and non-vaporised portions, which will "click"
round producing a kind of stereoscopic cine film mounted
helically on a cylinder. Thin diaphragms of metal behind
"fluffy" baffles record the audio of the journey onto
gramophone discs via a stylus and a thin tympanic
membrane of the same substance.
Given that the photosphere is made of plasma, although I
imagine it being able to fly or swim through it with a
kind of flapping motion, for all I know this is actually
impossible because plasma is not gas or liquid, although
it is a fluid.
The escape velocity of the sun at the surface of the
photosphere is over 600 kps, so the idea currently fails
right here because unless the probe starts at that
this is merely an art project involving sending a useable
vehicle to the sun which will do something and then
vaporise. Still, it's better than nothing.
Oh, and obviously it needs to be sent at night (groan).
||" And yes, everyone can use the internet and read Wikipedia, so no original idea yet. "
||I read this idea first thing this morning and it kept popping into my thoughts randomly all day. (+)
||How much density can plasma have?
If your ornithopter was small enough you should be able to use wing-tilt alone to deflect enough photons to escape the gravity well.
Would fullerene withstand the temperature of the suns' corona? If so would your moving parts be able to then conduct electricity?
||Presumably the outer rind of the sun is at very low density, since it's the very tippety top of the sun's atmosphere. If so, then conductive heat gain will be quite slow and, just as you can stand in a sauna at 110°C, a suitable probe might well survive for quite a long time.
||Can't we bury a probe inside a reasonably large comet that is
going to hit the sun?
||Since the Sun is a ball of hot gas, and its visible surface
("photosphere") represents a particular layer of gas
(perhaps equivalent to Earthly cloud-tops), there is
nothing upon which something might "land" and rove
about. You should think of your rover as needing to be a
flying machine, with appropriate wings.
||There is still the problem of the Sun having a "surface"
gravity of about 28 times Earth-normal. What is the
density of the Solar atmosphere just above the
photosphere layer? That's the most important fact
relevant to designing (if possible at all) workable wings.
||I like [tc]s approach. Find some sacrificial ball of ice and
let it get as close as it can as long as it can hold out til
everything burns up. That way you can send data back
||First thing that comes to mind is Lexx, an insect spacecraft that could harvest a star's energy, but that could just be a Canadian rehash of Blake's 7.
||//bury a probe inside a reasonably large comet//
// I like [tc]s approach//
||Ditto. An ablative lens drilled straight through the core and use the off-gassing of the comets death to aid escape velocity.
||Cheap and messy. Win win.
||What information is there on the sun to send back? I doubt
the sun has any information at all. Even if it were to send
back one bit, or return or not return a bit of information,
what would it inform you of?
||^ Information ? who cares ? We could be the species that created and released a flock of sun-divers into our star, purely for aesthetics.
||Paradoxically, the coolest thing ever.
||Could you create a magnetic field to harvest energy from the fractional-c ions scurrying past ?
||... said energy mostly used to protect the actual physical part of the craft... that contains the bit that makes the magnetic fields that harvest the energy.
||sorta like using a helicopter to generate electricity by tossing it on top of a geyser.
||There's a Mr Desiato on the other line.
||//there is nothing upon which something might "land" and rove
about// - another, larger rover?
||To wander and rove the immeasurable beauty of the delicate flicks of Sol's plasmic touches.
||Well, set the controls for the heart of the Sun then I
||The photosphere is apparently about one half-millionth
the density of water, so in fact I'm not sure it can be
flown in. I
also imagine that the mechanics of plasma are
significantly unlike liquid or gas. I think this probably
implies an enormous wingspan and a mechanical bird
which can dive as far into the sunspot as practical in
order to find a denser but still cool layer.
||I also wonder if plasma is in fact the solution rather than
the problem, in that the craft could use plasma in various
ways, e.g. as "wiring" and propulsion.
||Huge spherical mirror, very thin. Lightweight spacecraft within.
||Balloon's density calculated to float in photosphere due to radiation pressure plus gas pressure.
||To get data back from the mechanical probe, you could use
mechanically actuated radar reflectors such as have been
proposed recently (a few months before you posted this
idea, I think) for a mechanical Venus rover.
||On the other hand, the Sun emits a lot of electromagnetic
radiation at pretty much every wavelength, so radar may be
||Perhaps you could use little capsules full of material that
emit unique wavelengths when vaporized at say 300 K above
sunspot temperature; they would send out little pulses of
light, and you could have a few thousand of them, like
paintballs, to send out data.
||That seems to have the same problem as radar or active
radio/optical/x-ray transmission: the Sun already emits a lot
of that; how will your receiver ignore that and only receive
the emissions from the probe?