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Q & A: heat loss in space

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
How do objects in space lose heat? For example a shuttle. I thought heat loss occured because it traveled from one molecule to another with less heat. If you’re not touching anything in space, how do you lose heat? Thanks
- Andre Reid (age 21)
Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A.
A:
The mechanism you're thinking of- conduction- is just one of several. In space, the main mechanism is the radiation of electromagnetic energy. For very hot objects, like light bulb filaments, you're familiar with that process because you can see the results. The same process goes on at any temperature, but at lower temperature only low frequency radiation, not visible, is produced. At around room temperature, the radiation frequencies extend up into the infrared range.

Mike W.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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