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topic, you should be able to: 1. Describe the Size, shape and distance of the sun from the earth; 4 2. Explain the structure of photosphere, chromosphere and corona; 3.Describe the sun's activity in terms of sunspots and activity cycle, flares and prominences and solar wind INTRODUCTION Do you know that our solar system consists of the following: the Sun; the eight official planets, at least three 'dwarf planets', more than 130 satellites of the planets, a large number of small bodies (the comets and asteroids), and the interplanetary medium. Our solar system is large and the Sun is the centre of our solar system. About 4.5 billion years ago, clouds of dust and gas gathered together to form the Sun. As time goes on, little fragments collapsed together and their gravity continued to attract more and more material into it so much so that the material started to heat up and became dense enough to start the fusion of hydrogen and helium. It is from this heat that is transmitted to us. This source of heat sustains our life on Earth, and controls our climate and weather. We has learned a great deal about the physical processes which determine the structure and evolution of stars in general. In this topic, we will begin by studying the Sun's size, shape and distance from the earth. Then we will discuss the Sun's structure and its activity.

ACTIVITY 1.1 Now that you have a rough idea how the sun was formed based on your reading, grab a piece of paper, and try to describe in brief how the sun was formed. 1.1 SIZE, SHAPE AND DISTANCES OF THE SUN FROM THE EARTH The Sun is a huge, spinning ball of hot gas and nuclear reactions that lights up the Earth and provides us with heat. The Sun is at an incomprehensible distance of 150 million kilometres away and yet it can give us sunburn. How can it do this? How big is the Sun? Figure 1.1 gives a graphical comparison of the Sun and the Earth. The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and contains approximately 98% of the total solar system mass. One hundred and nine Earths would be required to fit across the Sun's disk. Its interior could hold over 1.3 million Earths. The following Figure 1.1 shows the size of the Sun in relation to the Earth.

.Figure 1. vaporising even iron and allowing the atoms to move freely as a gas.1 shows some of the Sun's vital statistics. This feature is what distinguishes stars from planets.000 times as massive as Jupiter. From its angular size of about 0.2 Based on what you have just read. test your understanding by explaining the rationale as to what holds the Sun together. How does it do this? The Sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second. the Sun must be extremely hot. its diameter is determined to be 1.1: Some of the Sun's Vital Statistics ACTIVITY 1. Its enormous gravity that is 30 times of the Earth's gravity can crush the material in its interior. To imagine how far the Sun is. It has so much mass that it is able to produce its own light.000 times the Earth's mass and is over 1.1: The size of the Sun in relation to the Earth Source: www.000 kilometres. we take the period to be 27 days. Jupiter. It has about 333. take a plane which flies at 500 kilometres per hour. to offset this crushing force and to prevent its own The Sun is a near-perfect sphere that rotates with a period that increases with latitude from 25 days at the equator to 36 days at poles. For practical reasons. This is equal to 109 Earth diameters and almost 10 times the size of the largest planet.392. The Sun is gaseous throughout because its high temperature breaks most molecular bonds.5° and its distance of almost 150 million kilometres.bareket-astro. How long do you think it would take to fly from the Earth to the Sun? It's 34 years!!! That is how far the Sun is. which is 150 million kilometres away. The following Table 1. All the planets orbit the Sun because of its enormous gravity. Thus. Table 1.

2: Structure of the Sun Each of you is given the structure of the Sun (see Figure 1. 5 to 8 redhots. Figure 1. a bottle of yellow icing. Leave one-quarter free of icing. (ii) Place redhots over surface. 6cm diameter circular cookie. These strings of licorice represent the Sun's prominences. arrange strings of red licorice protruding from the outer edge of the cookie. This represents the sunspots.2 to create the interior of the Sun model. (e) Next is to create the Sun's surface feature: (i) Shake the orange and red sprinkles over the remaining -of the cookie that is covered with yellow of the cookie which was not spread with the icing.1. orange and red icing. This represents the granular appearance of the photosphere. This represents the interior of the Sun model.2) and you are to construct the structure of the Sun with the given materials. (B) Take the yellow icing and spread it on the cookie making sure you only spread it over three-quarters of the cookie. (ii) For the radioactive zone. small paper plate. (d) Refer to Figure 1. next to the white icing radioactive zone. Procedure: (a) Glue the cookie to the paper plate by using the icing. (iii) For the convection zone. spread orang tube icing next to the white icing core. place a white dot of icing in interior corner. (c) Place on strip of brown licorice along the lining of the yellow icing. . red and orange sprinkles. 2 to 3 strips of red and brown licorice. (i) For the core. We shall construct the structure of an 'edible' Sun! You need the following for each student: Tubes of white.2 THE SUN'S STRUCTURE Let us carry out an activity and construct a model of the Sun. spread red tube icing last. 6cm square of wax paper and a craft stick. (iii) Finally.

there is also a 'surface' to the Sun.000 K. The density of the photosphere is about a ten-thousandth of the Earth's sea-level atmospheric density. 1. The visible surface of the Sun is called the photosphere. The photosphere has a texture known as granulation. caused by rising convection cells of hot gas. The cool regions (<4. .3: Granulation near a sunspot Under close observation the photosphere exhibits a mottled appearance called granulation.2. Now that you are familiar with the names relating to the structure of the Sun.3). The characteristics of the Sun are exactly the same of that found in the Earth. ACTIVITY 1. This region marks a gradual change from the dense gas of the photosphere to the extremely low-density gas of interplanetary space.1 The Photosphere When we look at the Sun. Is the statement true or false? Justify your answer. Figure 1. we usually mean the size of the region surrounded by the photosphere. the photosphere has a pressure of about a few hundredths of the sea-level pressure on Earth. Almost all the features of the Sun's visible-light spectrum originate in the photosphere. When we speak of the size of the Sun.4 1. The photosphere ends (and the chromospheres begins) at about the place where the density of negative hydrogen ions falls too low to result in appreciable opacity. Generally.3 We have now established that the Sun is the biggest object in the solar system. It lies just below the chromospheres and just above the convective zone (see Figure 1.000 K) in it are seen as sunspots. Astronomers refer to the extremely low-density gases that lie above the photosphere. The temperature is about 6. This is a result of heat convection below the photosphere. (a) Photosphere is the visible surface of the sun which may be seen through the tenuous gases of its outer atmosphere. you are required to go through the rest of the topic for the description and function of the structures of the Sun. ACTIVITY 1.Now you have the model of the structure of the Sun. Tick the correct answer(s). the chromospheres and the corona as the Sun's atmosphere. we can see through the tenuous gases of its outer atmosphere. (b) Granulation is caused by the rising convections cells of hot gas. Like the Earth.

2.1 Test your understanding by ticking the correct answer. there is an increase in temperature to about 20. Due to its high temperature. The chromospheres' colour comes from the strong red emission line of hydrogen. . H-alpha.500 km or so is more or less continuous. SELF-CHECK 1.2 The Chromospheres The Sun's atmosphere consists of two main regions which are the 'chromospheres' and the 'corona'.500km thick. While the lower 1.000km. (a) Temperature The Sun's chromospheres start from a temperature of about 6.0000000001 times that of the Earth's sea-level atmosphere. The chromospheres ("colour sphere") is so-named because it appears as a thin red zone around the Sun before and after a total eclipse of the Sun. 1. The corona consists of hot gas that extends for millions of kilometres from the Sun's surface. Above this. describe briefly what you understand about Photosphere. The corona is the tenuous uppermost level of the Sun's atmosphere and lies above chromospheres. The corona's extremely hot gas (one to four million K) has such low density (about 10 -16g/cm3) that under most conditions. The density of the gases decreases as you move away from the photosphere into the chromospheres. 1. 3. the bulk of the radiation from the corona is emitted at Ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths. The chromospheres are about 2. Based on what you have just read.500 km thick. we look right through it. The corona has a density of about 0.2. 4.2. The chromospheres are a narrow region that lies between photosphere and corona. The chromospheres are the tenuous uppermost level of the Sun's atmosphere and are about 2. 2.300 K. During a total solar eclipse. Magnetic fields on the Sun play an important role in heating the gas to such a high temperature. The corona is a narrow region that lies between photosphere and chromospheres. From this point onwards is the transition region in which the temperature climbs swiftly to over one million K.000K at the top of the photosphere. The chromospheres are a narrow region that lies between its photosphere and its corona. the corona shines beautifully against the dark sky. At about 500 km above the photosphere.000 K. (b) Composition and Density The composition and density of the chromospheres also change markedly. 1.3 The Corona The corona is the tenuous uppermost level of the Sun's atmosphere lying immediately above the chromospheres. for about another 2. the temperature is about 4. the upper chromospheres features jagged spicules.

However. Self-check 1. The changes of the Sun's chromospheres' temperature depend on its distance from the photosphere. and energetic particles is not constant. they can also cause a variety of highly undesirable consequences such as electrical current surges in power lines. The output of the Sun appears in many forms: light. The solar activity can cause magnetic storms on Earth. The types of solar activity include: (a) Sunspots. These changes are called solar activity or Sun's activity. television and telephone signals. The storms produce the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis the Northern and Southern lights. Flow does energy get to the Sun's surface from its core? 1.5 Do further readings and answer the following question.3 THE SUN'S ACTIVITY The Sun is not a quiet place.2 Have you seen people sunbathing? A sun-tanned skin may probably be nice to he looked at and desired by all. The Sun's energy output consists of two main forms: (a) Electromagnetic radiation. and problems with defence communications. (b) Solar flares. All of these forms of solar activity are believed to be driven by energy release from the solar magnetic field. These changes are responsible for the "space weather" that affects Earth. These changes are reflections of changes below the surface of the Sun. But do you know that a prolong exposure to the sun is hazardous? Not only does it may . It varies with both time and position on the Sun. solar wind.5. Space weather can affect the upper atmosphere of the Earth and may influence long-term climate trends. The Sun's activity causes large changes in the Sun's plasma and energetic particle populations. and (d) Solar wind. The amount of solar activity on the Sun is closely related to the solar cycle. and (b) The emission of charged particles. We can study the solar activity to probe the workings of the Sun. interference in the broadcast of radio. ACTIVITY 1. (c) Solar prominences.

5(a):the whole sun with some large sunspot groups on it Figure 1. 1.4 and Figure changes from year to year.the dark inside region called the umbra and the surrounding less dark region called the penumbra. A large sunspot might have a temperature of about 4. The length of the cycle is about eleven years on average.1 Sunspots Sunspots are dark regions that appear on the sun's photosphere.000 K of the normal photosphere.5 (b): Closeup of some other sunspots ACTIVITY / hi/health /medical_notes/3244581 . Read the article from the following website or any other websites and discuss the content. The sunspot consists of. The Sunspot Cycle The number of sunspots seen on the 'surface' of the Sun.the surrounding less dark region.6 Answer True or False. 2. (a) Umbra .4 sketch of how magnetic fields causes sunspots Figure 1. The changes in the sun's plasma and energetic particle are caused by the sun's activity. The sunspot consists of two parts . and (b) Penumbra . The average number of sunspots that can be seen on the face of the Sun is not always the same.the dark inside region. Sunspots are caused by the Sun's magnetic field welling up to the photosphere. Their sizes vary from a few hundred to many thousand kilometres across. The powerful magnetic fields around sunspots produce active regions on the Sun. The rise and fall in sunspot counts is a cycle. http://riews. The Sunspot Cycle was discovered in 1843 by the amateur German astronomer Samuel Heinrich Schwabe. Sunspots appear "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them.stm it would be about as bright as a full moon.3. The following Figure 1. If you could cut an average sunspot out of the Sun and place it in the night sky. which often lead to solar flares.500 K as opposed to 6. Sunspots are only dark in contrast to the bright face of the Sun. . Figure 1.5 show sketches of how magnetic fields cause sunspots.potentially damage your skin. It goes up and down in a cycle. but it may also cause skin cancer in the long run.

subsequent cycles have been numbered consecutively. Solar flare may last from a few minutes to a few hours. Figure 1. the Sun sometimes has no spots at all.2 Solar Flares A solar flare is a magnetic storm on the Sun.A peak in the sunspot count is called 'solar maximum' (or 'solar max'). The cycle that began with the 1996 solar minimum is cycle 23. The Sun is usually very active and gives off more radiation than usual when sunspot counts are high. when 13 sunspots were seen.6: The sunspot cycle Monthly averages of the sunspot numbers show that the numbers of sunspot visible on the Sun waxes during solar maximum. In fact.3. Figure 1. This cycle is closely related to the magnetism of the Sun. The next solar cycle which is solar cycle 24 is due to peak in 2010 or 2011. with an approximately 11-year cycle. is still in use today. describe briefly the distinction between 'solar maximum' and 'solar minimum'. It is a brief but bright eruption of hot gas through a break in the Sun's chromospheres in the region of a sunspot. They are ejected thousands of kilometres from the surface of the Sun. An example of a recent sunspot cycle spans the years from the solar min in 1986. Figure 1. According to analysis. a Swiss astronomer named Rudolf Wolf came up with the best way to count sunspots. This extra energy changes the uppermost layers of the Earth's atmosphere. Wolf used data from earlier astronomers to reconstruct sunspot counts as far back as the 1755 to 1766 cycle. In 1848.6. During the minimum.7: A solar flare .6 shows the diagram of the sunspot cycle. NASA MSFC. The time when few sunspots appear is called a 'solar minimum' (or 'solar mm'). more than 100 sunspots can be seen on the Sun at once. ACTIVITY 1. now known as the Wolf sunspot number.7 shows a picture of a solar flare. Plot is from David Hathaway. on to the next solar min in 1996 (ten years after the 1986 solar mm) when the sunspot count had fallen back down to fewer than nine. Solar flares release huge amounts of high-energy particles and gases and are extremely hot. The sunspot count using Wolf's formula. which he dubbed "Cycle 1" as shown in Figure 1. and wanes during solar minimum. 1. During the maximum of the solar cycle. through the solar max in 1989 when more than 157 sunspots appeared. and why and when does these happen.7 Based on your understanding of what you have just read. Figure 1. Since then. it is the changing magnetic field of the Sun which governs many aspects of solar activity. the next solar maximum should peak around 2010 with a sunspot number of 160 plus or minus 25.

1.Solar flares can also cause sun quakes. Figure 1. Prominences are held above the Sun's surface by strong magnetic fields and can last for many months. spewing enormous amounts of solar material into space.8: Sketch illustrating how magnetic fields support a prominence Prominences form when the Sun's magnetic field reduces heat flow to a region.8 shows a sketch illustrating how magnetic fields support a prominence. At times. Some time in their existence. the hot external gas 'bottles up' the cooler gas of the prominence. flowing outward from the Sun. Thus. Sun quakes would rate about 11.3 on the Richter scale. they are cooler than the gas around them.4 The Solar Wind The corona's high temperature gives its atoms enough energy to escape the Sun's gravity. These waves radiate in concentric circles from the epicentre of the sun quake. may glow for weeks. . Figure 1. The after effect of an intense solar flare (with an electron density 1011 compared with 108 in solar quiet times) is the increase of ionisation in Earth's atmosphere leading to effects such as bright aurorae.8 Briefly explain the distinction between 'solar flare' and solar prominence' 1. Sun quakes are violent seismic events on the Sun. As these atoms stream into space. magnetic storms and radio interference. it is a natural consequence of the Sun being so hot .9: An erupting solar prominence Source: Photographed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) ACTIVITY 1. The solar wind also distorts the symmetry of planetary magnetospheres. Hence. they form the solar wind.3.9 1. most prominences will erupt. energy is released in seismic waves on the relatively fluid surface of the Sun. Its average velocity is about 500km/sec. When a sun quake occurs.the corona gas has too much energy to be gravitationally bound to the Sun. The solar wind is just a stream of charged particles. Figure 1.3 Solar Prominences Solar prominences are huge plumes of glowing gas that jut from the lower choromospheres into the corona.9 shows an erupting solar prominence.10: The solar wind Activity 1. mostly protons and electrons. Prominences can loop hundreds of thousands of kilometres into space. The solar wind is what blows the tails of comets back away from the bodies of comets as they go through the solar system. Due to this. Figure 1. Figure 1.10 shows a picture of the solar wind. this cooling gas trapped in its magnetic 'prison'.3. Figure 1. their pressure inside is less than outside. Explain the solar activity.

sunspots form where the field breaks through the surface. • The Sun is held together by gravity and supported against gravitational collapse by the pressure created by its high internal temperature. • Corona is the Sun's outer atmosphere. • The Solar interior is made up of the central core. • • • • In the corona. the radiative zone and the convection zone. . Near the sunspots. The Sun's magnetic field varies in structure and strength. Sunspot numbers rise and fall roughly within an 11-year period. SUMMARY • The Sun is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium atoms. • Chromospheres and corona are heated by magnetic waves travelling out from the photosphere. creating solar wind. As the subsurface field strengthens.2. the temperature reaches a million degrees and drives the corona gases into space. Name the disadvantages of magnetic storms. prominences and flares may occur. • The visible surface of the Sun is called the photosphere. • Chromospheres is the Sun's lower atmosphere.