With July in full force, it already feels like the Sun’s rays are slobbering down our necks here in the US. But what if it were closer to us? Say, 145 million miles closer? Popular Science investigates how near we could go and survive.
Even though the life-giving fireball burns at an unfathomable 5504C, PopSci notes that its heat fades quickly with distance in space’s vacuum, so that even at relatively close range – still three million miles away, mind you – one would be met with a balmy 120C.
Current spacesuit technology comfortably shields astronauts from temperatures up to this point, but would begin to fail once hapless spacefarers drifted closer. Beyond the 4.8 million kilometre mark, "It would then be a matter of time before the astronaut died," explains Ralph McNutt, a NASA engineer who works with advanced heat shielding. Dehydration, unconsciousness and, finally, death by heatstroke would be your sizzling demise.
Were you provided the luxury of a space shuttle, you could cruise even closer to the star - a ship covered in the standard re-entry heat shielding would provide ample protection up to 2593C, enough to get you to the intimate two million kilometre mark. But beyond this point, the shielding would quickly crumble, turning the ship into a solar rotisserie before exploding altogether within a minute. "I would advise turning away from the sun well before that point," McNutt admits. We agree.
I don't think I will complain about air conditioning for a while. [PopSci]
Image via NASA