Solar Sails – Curious Cases – Discovery

Solar Sails and space elevators science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent in by listeners.

Spacecraft and Solar sails offer possibilities of long operating lifetimes whilst combining low-cost operations. There are few moving parts and no requirement for propellant, therefore Solar sails can be used numerous times for potentially many delivery trips.

Solar pressure affects all spacecraft, Solar sails use a phenomenon that has a proven, measured effect on spacecraft.

Using Solar Sails to send the litter to the Sun.

Curious Cases episode five with Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Adam Rutherford look into two out of this world questions:

Can we shoot garbage into the sun?

And is everything in space circular or spherical?

The duo embarks on an astronomical thought experiment to see how much it would cost to throw Hannah’s daily rubbish into our stellar dustbin. From space elevators to solar sails, they explore the various options that could be used to send the litter to the Sun, with space scientist Lucie Green and astrophysicist Andrew Pontzen.

Solar sails (also called light sails or photon sails) are a form of spacecraft propulsion using radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on large mirrors.

A useful analogy may be a sailing boat, the light exerting a force on the mirrors is akin to a sail being blown by the wind. High-energy laser beams could be used as an alternative light source to exert much greater force than would be possible using sunlight, a concept known as beam sailing. Thank you, Wikipedia for that explanation.

The Curious Cases

This leads them to wonder if everything in space is circular or spherical.

Hannah gazes at Jupiter at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich with Public Astronomer, Dr Marek Kukula.

Science writer, Philip Ball, explains how the astronomical obsession with celestial spheres came to an untidy end. And physicist Dr Helen Czerski helps Adam on his quest to find the perfect natural sphere.

Phuket Island radio broadcasts BBC Discovery on a Sunday at 8:30 am on 91.5 FM and 102.5FM as part of the station’s EDUtainment strategy. Other Sunday morning shows include  BBC Science in Action at 9 am technology from BBC Digital Planet at 9.30 and Sunday Sundae starts with BBC Healthcheck at 8 am.