Mercury helped NASA figure out how fast «losing weight» the Sun

© NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of WashingtonСнимок mercury in artificial colors, reflecting the mineralogical and chemical properties of the surface soilMercury helped NASA figure out how fast «losing weight» the Sun© NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Observe how the shifting orbit of mercury, have helped scientists to calculate the exact speed at which the Sun is «losing weight» due to fusion reactions and the solar wind, say astronomers in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.

«We managed to solve one of the most fundamental and important problems in solar physics, using the methods that are used in planetary science. Looking at the problem from a completely different side, we were able to obtain more accurate estimates and to approach a new understanding of how to interact with each other the Sun and planets,» said Erwan Mazarico (Erwin Mazarico) from space flight Center of NASA Goddard (USA).

The sun like all other stars, is a giant natural fusion reactor that converts the energy released during the merger of the nuclei of hydrogen and other light elements, light and heat. In addition to these forms of radiation, the Sun continuously emits huge quantities of hot plasma into space in the form of so-called «solar wind» – a stream of protons, electrons and other particles accelerated to very high speeds.

Since the discovery of this phenomenon by the Soviet probe «Luna-1», scientists for more than 50 years trying to understand how the solar wind and how it affects the behavior of the sun and the eight planets of the Solar system.

The most obvious consequence of its existence, as noted, Mazarico is the fact that the Sun is continuously «losing weight». Causing substance does not compensated, resulting in a mass of lights gradually decreases with time. Current theoretical estimates show that for the life luminary should lose about 0.1% of its mass in this way has a significant impact on the position of the orbit of the planets.

For example, the Earth removed from the Sun of about 150 thousand by the time when the light runs out of its reserves «star fuel» and turn into a red giant, the orbit of Mars, Jupiter or more distant planets will shift even more. This will affect their potential habitability and how they will interact with asteroids and comets.

The problem is that these estimates are very inaccurate – up to the present time, astronomers did not know how fast «losing weight,» the Sun and how fast the planet’s «escape» from him. This riddle, as noted, Mazarico, helped to resolve mercury.

Mercury, as the scientist explains, is about three times closer to the Sun than the Earth, and the reduction in weight of the lights will be much stronger influence on the position of its orbit and the distance between the points where the first planet in the Solar system is removed and the maximum moving closer to the star. In particular, the rough calculations show that for two years the position of mercury’s orbit should shift by approximately two meters.

Usually, such shifts would be impossible to see from Earth, given the great distance between earth and mercury, however, in its orbit for a long time worked as the MESSENGER probe that can accurately measure the time spend on radio waves travel to Earth and back, and how much they «stretch».

Using these technical data, Mazarico and his colleagues were able to calculate not only the exact speed of the «weight loss» is the Sun, but also to test the theory of relativity and figure out how much our light is different in shape from a perfect sphere.

As shown by these calculations, every year the Sun is «losing weight» is about 179 trillion tons, equivalent to about 3.5% of the total mass of the earth’s atmosphere. Such values, according to the astronomers, in principle, correspond to that predicted by the theory, although somewhat below these estimates.

Other measurements, according to Mazarico show that the behavior of the lights fully consistent with relativity theory, which allows scientists to use such observations to predict the fate of the Solar system and the study of the history of its formation.