No Context For You – June 09th

In the coverage of the current societal situation in the US I’ve seen any number of people suggesting that certain politicians need to be “shot into the sun.” This was also something that was mentioned a number of times in the first four seasons of “The Expanse” which we’ve just binged over the last few weekends. (Very good show, we enjoyed it a lot, FWIW.)

While there is a certain visual image that brings joy to the heart of all good and decent people when they fantasize about the Mango Mussolini and his cult being dropped into the corona to be fricasseed and flambeed in 17,000,000° nuclear fire, the simple fact of physics is that it’s hard to shoot people into the sun!

It might be counter intuitive – we think of the sun as being at the bottom of a gravity well and all we have to do is let got of them, right? Well… wrong. The Earth doesn’t drop into the sun because we’re in orbit, and moving at about 67,000 mph to keep us here. So to “drop” into the sun you need to lose all of that energy and slow down to about 0 mph relative to the sun. That’s a delta-v (change in velocity) of about 29.95 km/sec.

On the other hand, if you want to send something (or someone) on a trip out of the solar system to wander aimlessly through the galaxy with almost zero chance of ever hitting anything or even coming near anything before the heat death of the universe, you only need about 42.1 km/sec. Since the Earth is already going at almost 30 km/sec, you only need a delta-v of about 12.1 km/sec. That’s well less than half of what it takes in rocket fuel to drop someone into the sun.

You can launch TWO politicians on a slow boat toward Alpha Centauri -ish for the same delta-v as you would use to launch one politician into the sun, and still have enough delta-V left over to go to the Moon!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Politics

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