Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer
The sun is a star – you probably knew that. but, did you know that the sun will die one day? Read on to know all about our sun 🙂
What is the Sun exactly?
As stated above, the Sun is actually a star, made up of gas and dust and has a temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius, the hottest part of the sun being its core and having a radius of 696,350 km.
All the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. The Earth, for example, takes one entire year to revolve around it. The Sun also travels around 220 kilometres per second! This is extremely fast compared to the Earth, which moves 30 kilometres per second.
But did you know that the sun has cool spots? Or that it isn’t actually yellow? Sounds like those are some cool facts about the sun right?
The study of the sun is known as heliophysics and that is exactly what this article is going to do!
By taking you through 20 fun facts about the sun, you will have enough information about the sun to get you one step closer to being a Heliophysicist!
So, let’s begin by going through some facts about the sun!
20 fun facts about the sun
1. The Sun takes 27 days for one rotation
You must be familiar with the fact that most celestial bodies rotate on an axis. The Earth for example takes 24 hours to rotate on its axis meanwhile the sun takes 27 days to rotate on its axis
2. The sun has cool spots
As mentioned before the sun’s surface is about 5600 degrees Celsius but in spite of this, there are sunspots, which are some parts of the sun that aren’t as hot and are darker in colour. These spots have higher magnetic fields that cause this dip in temperature making them cooler than other areas of the sun.
3. It has outbursts
The sun has something called solar flares, which are bursts of energy from sunspots on the sun’s surface and is caused by variations in magnetic energy on the surface
4. The sun is a yellow dwarf
The sun belongs to a group of stars known as a yellow dwarf. These stars are smaller in size and are usually about 80% of the size of the sun, which means the sun is one of the bigger stars in the yellow dwarf category.
5. The sun is over 4.5 billion years old
Our entire solar system came about during the same time, so scientists used moonrocks to study how old the sun was and they found that the sun has been around for about 4.5 billion years. That’s pretty old, right? Well, the sun is actually middle-aged as scientists predict it’ll still be around for another 5 billion years.
6. Ancient civilizations worshipped the Sun
It’s pretty hard to not notice the sun, it’s an enormous glowing ball in the sky that can sometimes get very hot. Well, some ancient civilizations noticed the sun in great detail so much so that they worshipped the sun! Ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra while the Aztecs had a sung god named Huitzilopochtli.
7. The sun is 500 times heavier than other planets
The sun takes up 99.8% of space in our solar system which means that it takes up a lot of mass! And because of this large mass, it is 500 times heavier than all the other planets combined!
8. The sun will die in 5 billion years 🙁
As mentioned before the sun is middle-aged, so in about 5 million years it will die out. It will most likely go out of hydrogen, which is largely what it is made of and this will then leave a high amount of helium and once this leaves it will shrink into a white dwarf star.
9. The light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach us
The sun is 148.1 million kilometres away from the earth so it takes the light about 8 minutes to reach the earth. This means that when you look at the sun right now it was actually how it looked 8 minutes ago!
10. There are sunquakes on the sun
The sun releases electromagnetic energy in sudden explosions that are called solar flares. When this happens, energy is released in the form of waves, which then ripple along the Sun’s surface – like waves on a lake and cause vibrations on the sun that are like sunquakes
11. It’s really bright, even for a star
Scientists have found that the sun is brighter than about 85% of stars in the Milky Way, making it one of the brightest stars in our galaxy!
12. You can fill the sun with a million Earths
The sun is extremely large, so large that if you were to hollow out the sun you can fit 1.3 million Earths inside it!
13. It is mostly hydrogen and helium
The sun is mostly made up of two very basic elements- Hydrogen and Helium. Hydrogen makes up 70% of the sun and helium makes up about 28%, the other 2 per cent is made up of oxygen Carbon, nitrogen, neon, iron, silicon, magnesium and sulfur. So, it is basically a big ball of gas!
14. Sun comes from the word Sunne. Also Sol.
The Sun has been called by many names. The word finds its roots in the old German word “Sunne” which means a heavenly body.
Then there’s the Latin word for Sun, which is “sol” – solar comes from this word.
Also, Helios which was the Sun god in ancient Greek mythology, is used for many Sun-related words like heliosphere and helioseismology.
15. The Sun keeps all the planets in their places
The sun keeps all the planets in our solar system in place through gravity.
16. There’s a World Sun Day
World Sun day is celebrated on May 3rd, this was made so by the former US president Jimmy Carter in 1978 to promote Solar energy.
17. A total solar eclipse is known as a totality
There are about 3-5 solar eclipses in a year where the moon covers the sun however, some solar eclipses, although rare are total solar eclipses where the moon completely covers the sun and this is known as a “totality”.
18. The sun isn’t actually yellow
Although it is called a yellow dwarf star and appears yellow to us the sun is actually white! It appears yellow to us because some colours, called short length, colours are scattered by the earth’s atmosphere and because of this scattering some colours look different to our eyes.
19. Solar energy is the largest energy on Earth
We use light and heat energy from the sun to make electricity and since the sun isn’t going away anytime soon this is available in abundance. This is a good alternative energy source as it is renewable and can’t be depleted
20. NASA sent a spacecraft to touch the sun
Parker Solar Probe was the first-ever mission to try and “touch” the Sun. The spacecraft is the size of a small car and was launched in 2018 and is the only spacecraft to get closest to the sun in the history of the world!
Where is the sun located?
To put it simply the sun is located at the centre of our solar system, but to be more specific, it is located in the Milky way, which is our galaxy.
If you look at a picture of the milky way you will see a lot of spirals, and the spiral arm the sun is in is called the “Orion spur.”
The Sun orbits and travels in the milky way and since its gravitational pull is so strong it takes the planets with it. It takes about 23o million years for the sun to make one trip around the Milky Way.
The fact that we can see the sun with our naked eye helps us understand how huge it really is because it is really far away and can’t be seen if it wasn’t that big!
The sun is 148.72 million miles away, a spacecraft that is travelling about 58,000 kilometres an hour would take 100 days to reach the sun.
In fact, this was done in 2018, by NASA where they sent a spacecraft known as Solar Parker Probe. It is still in space and will reach the sun about 3.8 million miles from the surface.
How was the sun formed?
Now that you know all this information and facts about the sun we have a good understanding of what it is. So, let’s look at the formation of the sun and how it came to be.
The sun and also the planets were formed together, about 4.6 billion years ago.
Here’s what happened.
There was a cloud of gas and dust called the solar nebula. This nebula collapse when a supernova near it exploded – this explosion is believed to have led to the collapse of the solar nebula.
As this nebula collapsed, it spun and became flat, like a disc. Due to gravity the nebula’s gases etc., where pulled at the center, which is what created the the sun – in the center. Most of the other material formed the planets that now orbit the sun.
More about the sun
The sun, much like the Earth, rotates around its own axis. It takes about 25 to 35 days to complete a single rotation.
What is the sun made of?
There are six layers that make up the sun. These are:
The radiative zone
The convective zone
The chromosphere and
The sun’s core is the center of the sun and is its hottest part. Temperatures in this part go over 15.7 million degrees Celsius, or 28 million degrees Fahrenheit. The size is over 1000 times the size of the Earth!
This is the region between the outer edge of the core to, what’s called the interface layer that lies at the base of the convection zone. However, even the core is a radiative region.
The main characteristic of this zone is that the energy here transferred by radiation. The energy is carried by photons that bounce from particle to particle through this zone.
Between the radiative zone and the next layer, the convective zone, there is a transition zone called the tachocline. This region is created as a result of the sun’s differential rotation
This zone starts at about 70% of the sun’s radius. Here, the sun’s temperature is not that hot and thus its energy is not transferred energy by radiation, but by convection (this is a process where heat is transferred not necessarily by the movement of particles, but by passing the energy from one particle to another through contact)
This is the part of the sun we see – it’s bright yellow and looks like the “surface” of the sun. It’s about 400 kilometers (250 miles) thick.
This is about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) thick and is pinkish-red in colour. It’s the lower region of the sun’s atmosphere.
This is a thin layer that is located between the the photosphere and the corona (the Sun’s upper atmosphere). It gets its name from the Greek root chroma, which means colour. The pinkish-red colour is due to the hydrogen.
The chromosphere is prone to many complex storms and other phenomena. Also, the temperature in this layer varies depending on its distance from the surface of the Sun.
The corona is the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere.
It’s HOT here. Gases in this part burn at one million°C or 1.8 million°F). The speed is fast too – approximately 145 kilometers (90 miles) per second.
How and why will the sun die?
The sun has been around about 4.6 billion years, and its core is about 74% hydrogen. Over the course of time – that is in the next 5 billion years – the sun will burn through most of its hydrogen, and helium. At this point, the core will heat up considerably and contract. This will lead to an increase in the amount of nuclear fusion. As a result, the outer layers of the sun will expand – because of the extra energy.
Will the sun swallow the Earth?
It is said (if we can look 5 billion years into the future) that the sun will expand to about 200 times its current radius. It will pretty much swallow Mercury and Venus. Whether it will also swallow the Earth or not is a matter of debate.
Hope you know all about the sun now 🙂
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