Expedition 59 astronauts on the International Space Station are conducting an experiment that will help our understanding of fires and how gravity affects them. They are making a fire... in zero gravity
There is no purpose for lighting a fire in space – other than the stunning images that result – but understanding how combustion works in the gravitational environments of the moon and Mars may be critical to future missions. 'If you look at any textbook on combustion, almost all the theories that are developed ignore the influence of gravity,' says NASA’s Glenn Research Center scientist Daniel Dietrich.
What the ISS team has discovered is that flames look differently in reduced gravity: 'With the near absence of gravity on the space station, flames tend to be spherical. On Earth, hot gases from the flame rise while gravity pulls cooler, denser air to the bottom of the flame. This creates both the shape of the flame, as well as a flickering effect. In microgravity, this flow doesn’t occur. This reduces the variables in combustion experiments, making them simpler and creating spherical shaped flames,' reports NASA.
This research has implications for combustion systems such as engines. It may also prove vital for fire safety outside of our planet.
Photo&Video credits: NASAKat Jones