|MadSci Network: Physics|
Hi Nikos, That's a great question. In theory, the answer is yes! Keep in mind that space doesn't have an ambient temperature in the same way as on Earth. On Earth, (or any planet with an atmosphere) the temperature we usually refer to is that of air, water, ground or other medium. Space does contain some gases and solids, but at very low densities. For this reason, it is close to a theoretical vacuum. So what is the temperature in space? The background radiation of intergalactic space is around 4 Kelvins. This is easily cold enough for most superconductors, but anything close to our solar system will be significantly influenced by our sun and planets. The surface of the sun is about 5700 Kelvins and Earth is 300 Kelvins or so. Satellites encounter a range of temperatures based on radiation from the sun, Earth, and possibly the moon. An absorbtive material (say a black plate) facing the sun can get quite hot. Alternatively, a reflective material facing intergalactic space can get quite cold. Satellites manage their temperature with insulating blankets, heat sinks, and heaters to keep their internal temperature within a reasonable value. On Earth, we have three methods of transferring heat: convection, conduction, and radiation. In space, there is very little air, so there is no convection. Radiation and conduction are dominant. Any surface that absorbs radiation from a heat source will get hot and conduct that heat to anything in direct contact. In order to design a very cold section, it must be well insulated to avoid conduction with warmer areas and oriented so that it does not absorb radiation. It's a challenge that is often solved with the aid of thermal modeling software. I hope that answers your question.
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