Outrageously different from our cheerful, habitable environment on Earth, space is a matter of extremes.
While the Sun’s surface burns at 10,000 degrees F, the space is freezing at -455 degrees F.
- The sun, a fierce ball of continuous nuclear fusion explosions, burns at 10,000 degrees F at the surface and around 27 million degrees F at the core.
- On the opposite end, the cosmic background temperature far from earth’s mild habitat in space is roughly -455 degrees F.
But how can there be such extreme variations?
- Heat radiates as infrared energy, migrating from hotter objects to cooler ones. These waves excite contacting molecules and heat them up.
- However, radiation only heats molecules of matter directly in its path, leaving everything untouched extremely cold.
- This makes for extreme temperature variations: Temperature of Mercury at night is up to 1,000 degrees F less than during radiation-exposed days.
- Space being a vacuum, does not have enough gas molecules near enough to collide with one another and transfer heat via conduction.
- In the same way, convection which transfers heat in the presence of gravity on Earth, doesn’t take place in space with zero gravity.
- Extreme variation in temperature poses unique challenges for spacecraft – while some need cooling to avoid shorting out, others need heating to not freeze functions.
- In the unforgiving environment of space, Earth is bizarre in some respect, with an atmosphere keeping temperatures mild and inhabitable.
- But with manmade pollution menacing towards climate change – this mild and balmy earth may not stay the same.