How Does the Sun Burn?

Usually anything that burns needs oxygen, but space has no oxygen, so what’s going on? Most other burning is done by combustion, but the sun burns using fusion, which involves turning hydrogen into helium and needs a way higher temperature than anything seen on earth.

4 Hydrogen

1 Helium + Energy

+ +

+
FUSION

+ +

+

+

When this happens, energy is released, which keeps the sun hot and makes up for the energy that escapes as sunlight. Like ordinary burning, once the fire is going, it keeps going as long as there is fuel.

RELEASES

CAUSES

FUSION

ENERGY

Notice that two of the particles in Helium look different? That’s because there’s more steps I skipped over. It’s also possible to track how much hydrogen is left by the light from the sun, which is plenty, but don’t just take a flyer’s word for it, look up how to see for yourself!

Jack Davis. Lamp Post Science, 2011.

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