nteresting Facts About the Sun

by FR A S E R C A IN on SEPTEMBER 11, 2008

The Sun as viewed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (NASA/SOHO)

Think you know everything there is to know about the Sun? Think again. Here are 10 facts about the Sun, collected in no particular order. Some you might already know, and others will be totally new to you. 1. The Sun is the Solar System We live on the planet, so we think it’s an equal member of the

Solar System. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that the mass of the Sun accounts for 99.8% of the mass of the Solar System. And most of that final 0.2% comes from Jupiter. So the mass of the Earth is a fraction of a fraction of the mass of the Solar System. Really, we barely exist. 2. And the Sun is mostly hydrogen and helium If you could take apart the Sun and pile up its different elements, you’d find that 74% of its mass comes from hydrogen. with 24% helium. The remaining 2% is includes trace amounts of iron, nickel, oxygen, and all the other elements we have in the Solar System. In other words, the Solar System is mostly made of hydrogen. 3. The Sun is pretty bright. We know of some amazingly large and bright stars, like Eta Carina and Betelgeuse. But they’re incredibly far away. Our own Sun is a relatively bright star. If you could take the 50 closest stars within 17 light-years of the Earth, the Sun would be the 4th brightest star in absolute terms. Not bad at all. 4. The Sun is huge, but tiny With a diameter of 109 times the size the Earth, the Sun makes a really big sphere. You could fit 1.3 million Earths inside the Sun. Or you could flatten out 11,990 Earths to cover the surface of the Sun. That’s big, but there are some much bigger stars out there. For example, the biggest star that we know of would almost reach Saturn if it were placed inside the Solar System. 5. The Sun is middle aged Astronomers think that the Sun (and the planets) formed from the solar nebula about 4.59 billion years ago. The Sun is in the main sequence stage right now, slowly using up its hydrogen fuel. But at some point, in about 5 billion years from now, the Sun will enter the red giant phase, where it swells up

but the surface of the planet will be scorched and uninhabited. 7. Beneath the convection zone is the radiative zone. and molecules of hydrogen are fused into helium. Bacteria might still live on underground. and then shrink back down to a relatively tiny white dwarf. different parts of the Sun rotate at different speeds. 8. Beneath that is the convective zone. Different parts of the Sun rotate at different speeds Unlike the planets.6 million degrees Kelvin.000 degrees Kelvin. . where heat moves slowly from the inner Sun to the surface. In fact. but it actually has an internal structure. You can see how fast the surface is rotating by tracking the movement of sunspots across the surface. the Sun is great big sphere of hydrogen gas. It’ll take another 7 billion years for the Sun to reach its red giant phase before it actually expands to the point that it engulfs the Earth and destroys the entire planet.to consume the inner planets – including Earth (probably). heat can only travel through radiation. In this zone. but that’s not true. and heats up to a temperature of about 6. the heat from the Sun will be so intense that liquid water won’t exist on the surface of the Earth. The visible surface we can see is called the photosphere. and will kill all life on Earth It feels like the Sun has been around forever. 6. The core of the Sun extends from the center of the Sun to a distance of 0. This is where temperatures reach 13. The Sun has layers The Sun looks like a burning ball of fire. Because of this. Life on Earth as we know it will be gone forever. The Sun is actually slowly heating up. It will slough off its outer layers. The Sun is heating up.2 solar radii. unchanging. This region starts at 70% of the radius of the Sun. and cooled material falls back down in columns. within just a billion years. It’s becoming 10% more luminous every billion years.

1. A more recent mission is NASA’s STEREO spacecraft.Regions at the equator take 25 days to complete one rotation. The most famous spacecraft sent to observe the Sun is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. 9. Above the surface of the Sun is a region of the atmosphere called the chromosphere. to give a 3-D perspective of the Sun’s activity. while features at the poles can take 36 days. which extends to a volume even larger than the Sun itself.500 km Equatorial Circumference: 4. And the inside of the Sun seems to take about 27 days.   Equatorial Radius: 695. There are spacecraft observing the Sun right now. The outer atmosphere is hotter than the surface The surface of the Sun reaches temperatures of 6.000 km . These twin spacecraft were designed to watch the same activity on the Sun from two different vantage points. and launched in December.8% of the total mass of the Solar System (Jupiter contains most of the rest).379. where temperatures can reach 100. built by NASA and ESA. There’s an even more distant region called the corona. SOHO has been continuously observing the Sun since then. launched in October 2006. 10.000 Kelvin. and sent back countless images. But that’s nothing. and allow astronomers to better predict space weather.000 K. Temperatures in the corona can reach 1 million K. But this is actually much less than the Sun’s atmosphere. This was actually two spacecraft. 1995. The sun is by far the largest object in the solar system NASA The sun contains more than 99.

the sun has been known to humans since the dawn of time.000 km3 Mass: 1.com 2.000.000.200. the Sun's core must keep producing enough pressure to keep the Sun from collapsing in on itself.000.000.409 g/cm3 Surface Area: 6.2753 days Velocity Relative to Near Stars: 19.000.1.     Spectral Type: G2 V Synodic Period: 27.7 km/s Solar Constant (Total Solar Irradiance): 1.000 km2 Ads Solar PanelsSearch Thousands of Catalogs for Solar Panelswww.6 billion years old. about 15 billion years.369 kW/m2 3. The only way it can do this is to increase its temperature.com Solar System InfoFind here the latest information about Solar Systems & Solar Energy!www.solarserver. the sun has used up about half of the hydrogen in its core SOHO/Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) consortium Over the next 5 billion years or so. While some in our galaxy are nearly as old as the universe.000. Since its creation.365 .    Volume: 1. only 4.000. At that point.000 kg Density: 1.000.com Heavy Metals . it will grow steadily brighter as more helium accumulates in its core. There is no discovery date or discoverer.000. Some of its material came from former stars.087.799. it will go through a radical change which will most likely result in the complete destruction of the planet Earth. We've always known the sun NASA/ESA Unlike many other objects in our solar system. our sun is a 2nd-generation star. meaning its size. . and temperature fall in about the middle of the ranges of these properties for all stars. Eventually it will run out of hydrogen fuel.000. 4.globalspec.000. age.andalyze.142. As the supply of hydrogen dwindles.000.Water TestTest for Lead & Other Metals Fast Field testing in under 30 secondswww.989. Our Sun is actually the closest star to Earth NASA Our Sun is an average star.

The sun's strong gravitational pull holds Earth and the other planets in place NASA It keeps the planets orbiting inside the solar system:   Equatorial Surface Gravity: 274. 7. the interior has two distinct regions: a radiative zone and a convective zone. Aztecs. which is still in use today. it has been studied. The Greeks named the sun Helios NASA However.223. 12 Enroll Freewww. 6. more than any other object in the universe. After studying Jupiter for 17 days.0 m/s2 Escape Velocity: 2. The sun is made up of distinctive areas NASA In addition to the energy-producing solar core.www. and Chinese. perhaps. Native Americans.5.topIITcoaching. outside out own planet Earth. It takes a few hundred thousand years for photons to escape from the dense core and reach the surface.ico2n. Our Sun has inspired mythology in almost all cultures. Ads Carbon Capture ProjectsComplete information source on global CCS projects. Ulysses used the giant planet's gravity to hurl it into an orbit out of the Ecliptic Plane. Because of the important role the sun plays in our lives. 11. The other primary Solar mission is SOHO. Ulysses was the first spacecraft to study our Sun's poles NASA Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery and sent towards Jupiter with powerful booster rockets.com IIT JEE Self Study CourseSelf Study Course From IIT Alumni For Classes 10. including ancient Egyptians. the temperature decreases from 8 million to 7.720 km/h 8. where planets orbit our Sun.com . From the edge of the core outward. the Romans used the name Sol. The international Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has been keeping a steady watch on the Sun since April 1996. first through the radiative zone and then through the convective zone.000 K.

Everything in the Solar System orbits or revolves around the Sun. Above the photosphere lies the chromosphere ("sphere of color") that may be seen briefly during total solar eclipses as a reddish rim. How does the sun's "surface" and "atmosphere" compare to planets? NASA The "surface. the Solar System also consists of moons. . minor planets. and dust and gas.9. try to fly away from the Sun. The result of the planets trying to fly away. the source of coronal heating has been a scientific mystery for more than 60 years.000 times less than in the photosphere. the more gravity it has. comets. which are moving very rapidly. The Sun contains around 98% of all the material in the Solar System. and escaping into space. In addition to planets. Temperature steadily increases with altitude up to 50. around the Sun. and it is the place where sunspots are found. Children What Is The Solar System? The Solar System is made up of all the planets that orbit our Sun.millions of degrees kelvin. Since it is physically impossible to transfer thermal energy from the cooler surface of the Sun to the much hotter corona. The corona is extremely hot . Because the Sun is so large. asteroids. is just the visible 500-km-thick layer from which most of the Sun's radiation and light finally escape. outward into the emptiness of outer space. caused by hot hydrogen atoms. its powerful gravity attracts all the other objects in the Solar System towards it. The larger an object is. they spend eternity orbiting around their parent star. 10. at the same time that the Sun is trying to pull them inward is that they become trapped half-way in between. At the same time. extending outward from the Sun in the form of the "solar wind" to the edge of the solar system. while density drops to 100." known as the photosphere. One unsolved mystery of the sun involves the corona ("crown") NASA Above the chromosphere lies the corona ("crown"). Balanced between flying towards the Sun. these objects.000 K.

They believe that this dust and gas began to collapse under the weight of its own gravity. without understanding from where the Solar System came from. which are made up of atomic particles being blown outward from the Sun. it is difficult to comprehend how mankind came to be. and one that is difficult for scientists to understand. much like the water in a drain moves around the center of the drain in a circle. At the center of this spinning cloud. As it did so. These winds. . comets. This star grew larger and larger as it collected more and more of the dust and gas that collapsed into it. slowly pushed the remaining gas and dust out of the Solar System. a small star began to form. the creation of our Solar System took place billions of years before there were any people around to witness it. Our own evolution is tied closely to the evolution of the Solar System. moons. After all. while the smaller clumps became the planets. Scientists believe that the Solar System evolved from a giant cloud of dust and gas. the matter contained within this could begin moving in a giant circle. and asteroids. A Great Storm Once ignited.How Did The Solar System form? This is an important question. Further away from the center of this mass where the star was forming. Thus. the Sun's powerful solar winds began to blow. minor planets. there were smaller clumps of dust and gas that were also collapsing. The star in the center eventually ignited forming our Sun.

and asteroids stopped growing. You may have noticed that the four inner planets are much smaller than the four outer planets. As a result. Why is that? Because the inner planets are much closer to the Sun. As .With no more gas or dust. This gave the planets of the inner Solar System less time to grow. This is also a result of the solar winds. while the inner planets are made up almost entirely of rock and dust. moons. Another important difference is that the outer planets are largely made of gas and water. the planets. comets. the dust and gas from the inner Solar System was blown away much more quickly than it was from the outer Solar System. minor planets. they are located where the solar winds are stronger.

Some of them no larger than a grain of dust. the Kuiper Belt is also made up of thousands. The Solar System Has Over 100 Worlds It is true that there are only eight planets. . like Pluto. and oceans of liquid Methane. sits another belt known as the Kuiper Belt. are large enough that their gravity has pulled them into a sphere shape. you probably know them by their other name. like Eros can be more than 100 miles across. The Kuiper Belt. You can read more about these amazing worlds by clicking here. rivers. water.the outer planets grew larger. A few. and moons are actually larger than the planet Mercury! Others. However. comets. their gravity had time to accumulate massive amounts of gas.. Like the Asteroid Belt. beyond the orbit of the minor planet Pluto. while others. like Ida. This band of asteroids sits between the orbits of the planets Jupiter and Mars. even have their own moons. A few of these objects. the Solar System is made up of over 100 worlds that are every bit as fascinating. while Titan has lakes. And The Oort Cloud You have probably heard about the Asteroid Belt. These objects are made out of mostly frozen gas with small amounts of dust. as well as dust. have active volcanoes. Europa has a liquid water ocean. The Asteroid Belt.. such as Io. Some of these minor planets. possibly even millions of objects too small to be considered planets. It is made up of thousands of objects too small to be considered planets. However. They are often called dirty snowballs. Further out.

and at extremely high velocities. These comets do not orbit the Sun in a ring or belt. Beyond the Kuiper Belt sits a vast area known as the Oort Cloud. which is more than 160 times further from the Sun than is the Earth.Every once in a while one of these comets will be thrown off of its orbit in the Kuiper Belt and hurled towards the inner Solar System where it slowly melts in a fantastic show of tail and light. Scientists define the boundaries of the Solar System as being the border of the Heliosphere. or at the place where the solar winds from the Sun mix with the winds from other stars. each one buzzes around in a completely random direction. Beyond The Oort Cloud The Sun's solar winds continue pushing outward until they finally begin to mix into the interstellar medium. becoming lost with the winds from other stars. Instead. The Heliosphere extends out from the Sun to a distance of about 15 billion miles. Here within this jumbled disorganized cloud live millions of additional comets. This creates a sort of bubble called the Heliosphere. .

The Sun produces a solar wind which contains charged particles such as electrons and protons. It would be so cold that no living thing would be able to survive and our planet would be completely frozen.Solar System Facts Each page is full of fun and exciting facts about our Solar System. Our sun happens to be the brightest object in our universe and naturally we are really curious to know more about it. Take your time. and enjoy exploring our solar family. It makes up around 99. The Sun’s core is around 13600000 degrees Celsius! The Sun generates huge amounts of energy by combining hydrogen nuclei into helium.000 kilometres (865. heat and energy. iron and neon make up the remaining percentage.392. Ancient Egyptians had a sun god called Ra while in Aztec mythology there is a sun god named Tonatiuh. The Sun’s surface temperature is around 5500 degrees Celsius (9941 degrees Fahrenheit). many early cultures saw the Sun as a deity or god. It may seem that energy comes from other sources such as gasoline and electricity but the ultimate source of energy for the Earth is nothing else but the sun. Our sun gives us light. Helium makes up around 24% while heavier elements such as oxygen. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth. Features: Why Do We Study the Sun? We look at the sun rising every day. so pack plenty of sunscreen if you plan on visiting (remembering that the average distance from the Sun to the Earth is around 150 million kilometers). Without the sun life on Earth would not exist.86% of the Solar System’s mass. .000 miles) wide. Planets with strong magnetic fields such as Earth manage to deflect most of these charged particles as they approach. Around 74% of the Sun’s mass is made up of hydrogen. At around 1. the Sun’s diameter is about 110 times wider than Earth’s. Light from the Sun reaches Earth in around 8 minutes. They escape the Sun’s intense gravity because of their high kinetic energy and the high temperature of the Sun’s corona (a type of plasma atmosphere that extends into space). This process is called nuclear fusion. It’s bright.             The Sun is a star found at the center of the Solar System. For example. Because of the Sun’s huge influence on Earth. it’s big and it warms us up. carbon.

If it weren't for the sun. the more we know about the Milky Way. Here is what all of us should know about the sun. It has the largest eruptions in the solar system. which brings life on our planet. + Click here to watch the Sun For Kids video The sun is a normal star. to predict these eruptions so that we have a warning of at least 2-3 days to protect our expensive communication devices during a solar eruption. the harvests. YOUR TOP 10 SUN FACTS: 1. he or she would be in great danger. and even the sleep . our cell phones will be down. This makes it extremely important for life on Earth. It defines the seasons. The sun provides us with energy. The sun also plays the role of a big anchor. which creates gravity that keeps our planet and the other planets of the solar system in a small space. a high speed train may run loose and if an astronaut happens to be on the moon at the time when the sun erupts. These eruptions can be so large that they can reach our planet and cause serious damage by disrupting satellites and other communication devices. NASA uses satellites such as the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The better we understand other stars. Our TV may not work. and by studying the sun. we can therefore learn more about other stars. The sun is a star. Our sun is very dynamic and it changes constantly. Photo credit: NASA/Silvia Stoyanova. our planet would simply fly off loose into the universe. MD. Photo credit: NASA/Silvia Stoyanova. From there we know more about other galaxies and in the end we learn more about the universe. MD trace sunspots using sunspotters. Photo above: Research SOHO scientist Daniel Mueller from the European Space Agency talks to students of Parkland Magnet School in Rockville. It is much closer to us than any other star.Photo above: Students of Parkland Magnet School in Rockville. SOHO is just one of the instruments that NASA uses to help scientists understand our sun better along with other satellites and large observatories on Earth.

5 billion years? 8. Remember! The Earth orbits around the sun. Learn About Stars With KidsAstronomy. 2.000km and the Earth’s radius is 6. DON’T TOUCH THE SUN! IT’S HOT! The sun’s average surface temperature is 5700 C. 376km. 10. The sun is way bigger than the Earth. How old is the sun? Can you imagine 4. They increase and decrease on a regular cycle of about 10. the sun’s Radius is 696. It is simply the nearest star to Earth.8 years.patterns of all living creatures on Earth. In fact its radius is 109 times bigger than the radius of the Earth. The sun rotates on its axis approximately once every 26 days. The fastest rotation is around the equator and the slowest rotation is at the sun’s polar regions (more than 30 days). 4. The sun changes. The sun is the closest star to our planet. there is no solid surface. 5. One car is closer to you and the other one is far away. Imagine two cars on the road during the night with their headlights on. which is 20 C. the sun is entirely gaseous. we will always see something interesting. The sun is 150 million km (93 million miles) away from the Earth. 9. For those of you who are curious. We know that the Earth’s structure consists of different layers. No matter when or where we look at the sun. which is why its different parts rotate at different speeds. Compare that to the Earth’s average temperature. Which headlights would seem brighter and bigger? That explains why we see the sun so big and bright. Scientists observe these changes by watching the sunspots. The sun is made of gas. 6. 3. The sun also has layers but unlike the Earth. 7.com .

you can't see nearly as many stars because the city lights create a glow in the sky masking many of them. In a town or city. If you are out in the country or camping in the mountains or the desert away from the city lights.stars: When you look at the night sky you can see many beautiful stars. Scientists study stars and place them in groups based on how they are alike and how they are different. Some are very big. There are several different kinds of stars in the sky. A couple of stars have been found that are 100 to 200 times larger than the sun. Click on a star type to learn more about each one. you may see thousands of them. Some very old stars are smaller than the Earth. nteresting Facts About Stars by FR A S E R C A IN on FEBRUARY 10. 2009 . You may even be able to see part of the Milky Way.

the Sun will consume Mercury. bloating up many times its current size. The Sun is the closest star Okay. it will become a red giant.Think you know everything there is to know about stars? Think again! Here’s a list of 10 interesting facts about stars. and will likely continue doing so for another 7+ billion years. Here are 10 facts about the Sun. The Sun has been happily converting hydrogen into helium at its core for 4. but it’s pretty amazing to think that our own Sun. located a mere 150 million km away is average example of all the stars in the Universe. 1. and few that are going to be new. this one you should know. it fragments . As it expands. When the Sun runs out of fuel. some you might already know. Stars are made of the same stuff All stars begin from clouds of cold molecular hydrogen that gravitationally collapse. 2. Venus and probably even Earth. Our own Sun is classified as a G2 yellow dwarf star in the main sequence phase of its life.5 billion years. As they cloud collapses.

by far. 4. and can sip away . the biggest pile. And when they run out of light pressure. maybe as a neutron star. Stars are in perfect balance You might not realize but stars are in constant conflict with themselves. Red dwarfs can even be as small as 7. This initial gas was formed during the Big Bang. and is always about 74% hydrogen and 25% helium. the star would just continue collapsing for millions of years until it became its smallest possible size. Red dwarfs burn with less than 1/10. a journey that can take 100. When stars become more luminous.5% the mass of the Sun. But all stars start out with 3/4 hydrogen and 1/4 helium. or failed stars. If there was nothing to stop it. The photons push outward as they make their journey from inside the star to reach the surface. These are stars with less than 50% the mass of the Sun. 3.000th the energy of the Sun. they collapse down into white dwarfs. Below that point. would be the red dwarfs. The collective gravity of all the mass of a star is pulling it inward. That’s why our Sun’s ratio is more like 70% hydrogen and 29% helium.000 years. Over time.into many pieces that will go on to form individual stars. they expand outward becoming red giants. stars convert some of their hydrogen into helium. The nuclear fusion at the core of a star generates a tremendous amount of energy. But there is a pressure pushing back against the gravitational collapse of the star: light. Most stars are red dwarfs If you could collect all the stars together and put them in piles. with other trace elements. the star doesn’t have the gravitational pressure to raise the temperature inside its core to begin nuclear fusion. The material collects into a ball that continues to collapse under its own gravity until it can ignite nuclear fusion at its core. Those are called brown dwarfs.

where two stars orbit a common center of gravity. and so it seems abnormally bright. There’s a tricky exception to this: red giants. Most stars come in multiples It might look like all the stars are out there. The biggest stars would engulf Saturn Speaking of red giants.at their fuel for 10 trillion years before running out of hydrogen. all by themselves. and would have been a white star all of its life. This means that more energy reaches the surface of the star and increases its temperature. So the temperature and color of a star are connected. But as it nears the end of its life it increases in luminosity by a factor of 1000. Just think of the beautiful sunrises you’d experience waking up on a world with 4 stars around it. A typical red giant star can have the mass of our Sun. It has about 20 times the mass of the . or in this case.000 Kelvin. Mass defines the temperature of a star. 7. Mass = temperature = color The color of stars can range from red to white to blue. red supergiants. The more mass you have. 5. 4 and even more stars. And there are other systems out there with 3. These are binary stars. A familiar red supergiant is the star Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion. massive and hot. The hottest stars are blue. But a blue giant star is just big. and the more nuclear fusion can be done at its core. that’s a star with less than 3. the larger the star’s core is going to be. there are some monster stars out there that really make our Sun look small. but many come in pairs. 6.500 Kelvin. Red is the coolest color. which corresponds to surface temperatures above 12.000 Kelvin. Stars like our Sun are yellowish white and average around 6.

The largest known star is the monster VY Canis Majoris. Well. It would be so bright you could see it during the day.000. Eta Carinae has probably only been around for a few million years. And astronomers are expecting Eta Carinae to detonate as a supernovae any time now.000.000. Each one is a separate island in space.000.000. many stars Quick. and put out a ferocious amount of energy. and each of which could have as many or more stars as the Milky Way. there could be as many as 500 billion galaxies in the Universe.000. the opposite is true for the most massive stars that we know about. These giants can have as much as 150 times the mass of the Sun.000. But that’s nothing. and will keep going for billions more. located about 8. and puts out 4 million times as much energy. Multiply those two numbers together and you’ll see that there could be as many as 2 x 1023 stars in the Universe. This star is thought to be 1. While our own Sun has been quietly burning away for billions of years. This star is thought to have 150 solar masses. one of the most massive stars we know of is Eta Carinae. and some may even have life.000 light-years away. how many stars are there in the Milky Way. perhaps with planets. There are many. 9. it would engulf the orbit of Saturn! 8.000 times larger.800 times the size of the Sun. But then. and read from it at night. For example. 10. but it’s 1. it would become the brightest object in the sky after the Sun the Moon.Sun. And they’re very far . When it does go off. The most massive stars are the shortest lived I mentioned above that the low mass red dwarf stars can sip away at their fuel for 10 trillion years before finally running out. You might be surprised to know that there are 200-400 billion stars in our galaxy. That’s 200.

The closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri. If you’d like more information on stars.With so many stars out there. We have recorded several episodes of Astronomy Cast about stars. Here are two that you might find helpful: Episode 12: Where Do Baby Stars Come From. and here’s the stars and galaxies homepage. If you tried to hitch a ride on the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth. and Episode 13: Where Do Stars Go When they Die? . it takes light itself more than 4 years to complete the journey from Earth. check out Hubblesite’s News Releases about Stars. Traveling between the stars just isn’t feasible right now. it would still take you more than 70. located 4. it’s amazing to consider the vast distances involved.2 light-years away.000 years to get there from here. In other words.

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