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Does the magnus effect occur in solar wind? If so why are solar sails not aerofoils?

  1. Sep 8, 2012 #1
    I can't find authorative sources on whether the magnus effect works on the solar wind.

    I thought the solar wind was mostly particles, not a fluid medium, and therefore it would not.

    I thought this was the reason for the flat nature of solar sails. If the solar wind acted like a fluid medium, solar sails ought to be aerofoils like boat sails or airplane wings.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2012 #2
    Re: Does the magnus effect occur in solar wind? If so why are solar sails not aerofoi

    First of all the Magnus effect should only work if we are not in the ballistic limit. The mean free path of the molecules is pressure dependent and I don't know what the pressure distribution is. But in interstellar medium hydrodynamic effects should not show until your sail is much larger than thousands of kilometres. You might find the pressure and thus the mean free path in the heliosphere somewhere on the web. The wikipedia article on the Magnus effect states that it probably has an effect on the planets. The solar wind is extremely fast, so some effect should be expected (it is also supersonic but I have no idea what that means).
     
  4. Sep 9, 2012 #3

    mfb

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    Re: Does the magnus effect occur in solar wind? If so why are solar sails not aerofoi

    The dominant fraction of the pressure is radiation - catch it, reflect it or lose it, shape does not really matter. Solar wind is just a small bonus to the pressure.
     
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