The Sun: 8 Interesting Facts About Everyone’s Favorite Star

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If you think our ancestors were primitive to worship the sun, think again. Without this huge star, there would most likely not be any life on earth. There would certainly be no plants, which form an important source of nourishment for animal life. But apart from the fact that it’s bright, big, and hot what do you really know about the sun?

  1. Compared to earth it’s really big
    Our sun might not be the biggest star in the universe. In fact, it’s quite a bit smaller than what are known as ‘red giants’. These are not the most common stars in the universe though – that privilege belongs to smaller stars known as ‘red dwarfs’. And the sun is a lot bigger than the average red dwarf.In our solar system, the sun is positively huge. Its diameter is 870 000 miles, 110 times that of earth. And it contains 99.8 percent of all the mass in the solar system.
  2. It’s really hot
    Nuclear fusion, when hydrogen is converted to helium, is what generates the massive amounts of energy at the sun’s core. In the process, a huge amount of heat is also generated. How much? You might get a better idea if we told you that the surface temperature of the sun is very close to 5 600 degrees Celsius. This is still nothing compared to the sun’s core temperature, which reaches nearly 13.6 million degrees Celsius.
  3. The sun consists of different parts that rotate at different speeds
    Those regions lying at the sun’s equator completes a single rotation in 25 days. Polar regions can take as long as 36 days. And, although this has not been measured with 100 percent accuracy, the inside of the sun appears to take around 27 days to complete one rotation.
  4. Light from the sun takes eight minutes to reach the earth
    When you watch the sunrise in the morning can you even imagine that this ball of fire is 150 million km away? Light travels at 300 000 km per second – but even at this speed it takes eight minutes and twenty seconds to reach earth. To put this differently: what you are seeing right now is what the sun looked like 500 seconds ago. It might not even be there anymore. It could have been devoured by an ancient sun-eating god seven minutes ago – and you will only find that out a minute from now.
  5. Like us, the sun has a limited lifespan
    Our sun consists of hydrogen and helium. To give off so much heat and light, it burns through a massive amount of hydrogen every day. And one day, around 5 billion years from now, it will run out of hydrogen. For another 130 million years after that, it will continue burning helium – and it will start getting bigger and big-ger. Eventually, it will consume Mercury, then Venus, and sadly also earth before proceeding to devour Mars and the other planets. Finally, it will collapse into a ‘white dwarf.’
  6. The sun consists of four layers
    The part of the sun that we can see is called the photosphere. Below that is the convective zone, where hot gases slowly move from the inner parts to the surface, and gases that have cooled down start falling back toward the center. Then follows the radiative zone, where heat can only travel via radiation. And finally, there is the core where, as you saw above, temperatures can reach 13.6 million degrees Celsius.
  7. The sun is not always the same distance from earth
    Most people probably think that the earth’s orbit around the sun is a perfect circle. That is not the case. The earth in fact follows an elliptical orbit around the sun. At its furthest point, the sun is 152 million km away from us. After that, it gradually moves closer until finally it’s ‘only’ 147 million km away.
  8. The sun generates solar winds – and sometimes we can see them in action
    Solar winds are generated when the sun’s magnetic field extends into space. This sends a barrage of very hot charged particles (called plasma) into the solar system at speeds of up to 450 km per second. Two of the most dramatic examples of how these particles can interact with the earth’s atmosphere are the Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis.



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