The Winds of Deep Space

See on Scoop.itTracking the Future

If we can use solar photons to drive a sail, and perhaps use their momentum to stabilize a threatened observatory like Kepler, what about that other great push from the Sun, the solar wind? Unlike the stream of massless photons that exert a minute but cumulative push on a surface like a sail, the solar wind is a stream of charged particles moving at speeds of 500 kilometers per second and more, a flow that has captured the interest of those hoping to create a magnetic sail to ride it. A ‘magsail’ interacts with the solar wind’s plasma. The sailing metaphor remains, but solar sails and magsails get their push from fundamentally different processes.

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