MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: VRD - measuring extreme heat

Date: Wed May 23 00:58:04 2001
Posted By: Donald Terndrup, Faculty, Astronomy, Ohio State University
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 990201837.As

Nuclear weapons are controlled experiments, so we can measure
directly what happens.  

In a nuclear explosion, the bomb material and surrounding
area get extremely hot.  The hotter objects are, the more
short-wavelength radiation (in this case, X-rays) they emit.
So it is possible to measure the big flux of X-rays the
moment the bomb goes off.

Inside the Sun, we cannot see this radiation because it is
quicky absorbed by the surrounding material.  We do know that
the interior of the sun MUST be hot or else it would be
unstable.  If the core of the sun were too cool, the sun would
contract;  conversely, if the core of the Sun got too hot,
it would expand.  We know the sun is stable, and that means
that the very core of the Sun has to at a temperature of
about 10 million degrees.

Under these conditions, hydrogen is being fused to make helium.
One of the products of these reactions is the emission of
neutrinos, which are very low-mass chargeless elementary
particles.  We have detectors on the Earth that can see these
neutrinos, confirming that the Sun has nuclear reactions going
on, and thereby confirming the high temperatures in the Sun.

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