How can you be sure if the probe you are about to send to the Mars won’t burn out? Where can you check this?
Or how can you make a “sun knife” that is able to cut any materials and even evaporate metals?
Or how can you generate the temperature of 4 000 C from sunlight? All this – just by means of a sunbeam!
Answers to these questions can be obtained at the place few know about. You are invited to visit this place right now.
This is a heliostation of one research Ukrainian Institute located in a Crimean village Katsiveli. The small platform has a remote position from the road so curious eyes cannot notice it. There are dozens of metal structures there fully covered with mirrors. They look simple but they can do incredible things we mentioned in the very beginning.
The heliostation was created in 1967 to explore possibilities of solar energy. The place was chosen because of its transparent atmosphere and a large flow of solar radiation, besides it is almost never cloudy.
This plate was found by some scientists and became the biggest solar energy concentrator on the post-Soviet territory. Its diameter is five meters. The concentrator was specially made to test the radiosonde heat protection that was going to penetrate the atmosphere of the Mars. To perform the required research they had to cover the inside of the plate with twelve thousand (!) of mirrors which was done manually. This work was not easy, initially they stuck 8-10 facets per night but after some training they covered the plate with 200 mirrors per night. Why did they do it at night? Because in daytime they could burn their skin with sunbeams.
The system concentrates sunlight with all twelve thousand mirrors which direct rays to a single point. However the sun is moving so the system automatically tries to overtake the escaping star. But what does the plate do with collected beam of rays? Concentrated sunlight may reach the temperature of 4 000 C. It can melt and even evaporate metals. Heliostations allowed to create a “sun knife” which could cut, for example, asbestos cloth. Its ends were melting and didn’t raise dust. Slag stones burnt in the sun stopped absorbing moisture and became smooth.
There are other interesting structures here – modified army projectors which are also based on mirrors. By the way initially sunlight was caught by people later the process became automated. When the equipment is not used it is covered with protective casings.
Every installation standing here has its own purposes and configuration.
In the times of the USSR this heliocentre in the Crimea was known even far abroad. Scientists lived well – the country loved and appreciated their labor and motivated them to invent newer and better “clothes” for satellites and rockets.
Today the situation is different. Not so much attention is paid to science in Ukraine. However collegues from the USA still monitor the work of this heliostation. As opposed to many other Soviet scientific objects this one is still functioning somehow.