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Published on Monday, January 22, 2018

The Sun: An Introduction


Our sun formed approximately 45 billion years ago in one of the branches of the Milky Way galaxy when a cloud of gas and dust called a solar nebula collapsed upon itself. The concentrated gases resulted in a ball of fire 330,000 times the size of earth. The powerful gravity in the core and high temperatures, approaching 15.7 million degrees Kelvin, causes 620 metric tons of hydrogen to fuse together forming helium every second. This puts out immense energy in the form of heat, light, and radiation which allows our solar system to exist as it is today.  

Like the earth, the sun is comprised of multiple layers each having distinct characteristics. The six layers include the core, the radiative zone, the convective zone, the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona. After the hydrogen is fused into helium, the energy released travels through the radiative zone which extends three quarters of the way to the surface. It then enters the convective layer which moves superheated material in a gas-like phase called plasma to the surface. The next layer it enters is the photosphere which is the layer visible to us. This layer can reach temperatures up to 5778 K which is only a fraction of the temperature at the core. The chromosphere is a thin layer on which sunspot occur. The last layer is the corona, a layer of plasma that extends kilometers into space often visible when a solar eclipse occurs.

One of the most essential characteristics of the sun is its magnetic field, which extends far beyond pluto and protects us from cosmic radiation.This layer is called the heliosphere and is a result of plasma pushing electrically charged particles to the pole transforming the sun into a giant magnet. Sunspots are used as markers to where the sun’s powerful magnetic fields have emerged from the core. These result in solar winds that travel through the solar system often interacting with plants resulting in mesmerizing auroras. As plasma is bubbled from the interior of the sun, it causes changes in the magnetic fields which in turn lead to the flipping of the poles every 11 years. The flipping of the poles back to its original state takes 22 years which is known as the solar cycle

Despite its role as our protector and life giver, the sun will one day run out of hydrogen and grow larger, consuming us in the process. It will then turn into a white dwarf, a star with a size comparable to the size of earth. Some might therefore say: The sun giveth, the sun taketh away.

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Author: AThompson

Categories: Blogs, Energy & Power, Space, Videos, Energy & Power , Space



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