Russia developing space rover to study Sun from close distance

MOSCOW, August 7 (Itar-Tass) —— The Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences is developing Interheliozond, a space rover for studying the Sun.

The Academy and the Federal Space Agency will agree on the rover platform and innards before next year. Interheliozond is supposed to fly around the Sun along an orbit smaller than that of Mercury. The mission will open up new vistas and face colossal difficulties.

“Practically everything the rover telescopes will see will be new to mankind, such as the Sun’s corona observed with the resolution of about 300 kilometers,” leading researcher from the institute’s Sun X-ray astronomy laboratory Sergei Bogachev said. “The rover will study polar areas of the Sun for the first time ever. We will take a look at the interplanetary magnetic field, which, in the opinion of modern scientists, has the shape of a spiral centered on the Sun. We will also learn the real trajectory of Sun mass ejections towards the Earth.”

The institute has developed a set of three telescopes – a coronagraph, a high-energy X-ray telescope and an optical heliosphere telescope. Their total weight is 40 kilograms, which is important for the delivery of the payload to orbit. Thanks to new technologies and materials, instruments that used to weigh about 50 kilograms now weigh from five to ten kilos. Now the scientists need to solve the main problem, that is the appropriate insulation.

The prospective orbit of Interheliozond will be under a hard impact from the Sun, and temperatures will near 600 degrees Celsius. Many metals melt or become flexible under such temperatures. It is important to protect from the heat key elements of telescopes, such as sensors that operate under temperatures of about zero Centigrade. Radiation will be high, as well. Plasma around the rover will be special: it will have different speed and density of charged particles in the solar wind. That may lead to gradual decay of the majority of known materials. The correct choice of materials and understanding of their response to high temperatures are vital for the success of the project.

“Pioneer projects, which supply unique information despite high risks, are vital for science. That is the way Interheliozond is,” Bogachev said.


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