Presentation #502.01 in the session “Solar Wind & Exospheres”.
We present the development and testing of a space simulator which can be used to replicate the environment of the immediate neighborhood of the Sun down to about 0.05 au. The system is comprised of three main parts: The Solar simulator which was designed and constructed in-house, a vacuum chamber, and the probing and recording equipment needed to monitor the experimental procedures. Our motivation for building this experimental system was to study the effect of intense Solar radiation on the surfaces of asteroids when their perihelion distances become smaller than the semi-major axis of the orbit of Mercury. Recent models on the population of near-Earth asteroids (Granvik at al. 2016) have proposed that asteroids need to get disrupted catastrophically when their perihelion distances become smaller than the orbit of Mercury, with an average disruption distance of 0.076 au, in order for the predictions to match the observational data. We built this system to study the mechanisms responsible for this disruption, by conducting radiative heating experiments on asteroid analogues and simulants in order to monitor the various physical and chemical processes happening and try to constrain the key parameters affecting the population of real NEAs at small perihelion distances. The system could however be used for other applications that aim to study the effects of high Solar radiation on other natural or artificial objects.