What is the Sun?
The Sun is one of the many stars present in Milky Way galaxy. It is a very important source of energy for Earth. 73% of the Sun is made up of hydrogen and around 25% is made up of helium. The rest 2% constitutes Neon, Oxygen, Carbon, and Iron. Pioneers 6, 7, 8, and 9 were the first satellites designed for a long term observation of the Sun.
Sun is a star located right at the central point of our solar system. It is one of several reasons for which life exists on our blue planet, the Earth.
It is also responsible for the different weathers we experience on Earth. It is a yellow dwarf star.
The word ‘dwarf’ should not be misleading because though it is a dwarf compared to other bigger stars in universe, it is actually humungous when compared to our Earth! So, let us learn some awesome Sun Facts!
Awesome Sun Facts 1-10
1. Sun is nearly a perfect sphere. The diameter between its poles and the diameter between the two most outward and opposite points on equator have a difference of just 10 kilometers.
2. The current age of Sun is 4.6 billion years and it will exist for another 5 billion years.
3. The diameter of this star is 1,392,684 kilometers while its circumference calculated at its equator is 4,370,005.6 kilometers.
4. The surface temperature of the star is 5,500 degrees Celsius while the temperature at its core can reach up to 27 million degrees on Celsius scale.
5. The Sun’s total mass is 1,989,100,000,000,000,000,000 billion kilograms, which is 333,060 times the total mass of Earth.
6. The Sun is so large that 960,000 spherical Earths could easily fit inside it. If no space was to be wasted and the Earths were to be squeezed inside the Sun, the total number of Earths that would fit inside it would be a staggering 1,300,000!
7. Sun is made of hydrogen. This hydrogen is converted into helium through a process called Nuclear Fusion (opposite to Nuclear Fission).
8. Nuclear Fusion is the atomic reaction that causes the enormous heat and light emitted by the Sun.
9. Once all the hydrogen is converted into helium, the Sun will die. This will happen 5 billion years from now.
10. Hot objects are known to expand. So, Sun is continuously expanding. This expansion would have caused Sun to explode like a massive nuclear bomb but its internal gravitational pull prevents it from exploding.
Awesome Sun Facts 11-20
11. Because the Sun is continuously expanding, it will eventually suck in Mercury, Venus and Earth by the time all its hydrogen is converted into helium.
12. When all hydrogen gets converted into helium, the Sun will become a red giant.
13. Once the Sun reaches or attains its red giant state, it will then start to gradually shrink under its own internal and massive gravitational pull. It will eventually collapse into the size of our Earth while retaining its original mass. It will then be called a white dwarf. Finally, it will cool down and become a dim celestial object known as the black dwarf.
14. Currently Sun is made of both hydrogen and helium. ¾th of the total mass of Sun is made of hydrogen and helium gives the remaining mass. However, it also contains other elements.
15. For every 1 million hydrogen atoms, Sun has 35 silicon atoms, 35 iron atoms, 40 magnesium atoms, 110 nitrogen atoms, 120 neon atoms, 360 carbon atoms, 850 oxygen atoms and 98,000 helium atoms.
16. Light from Sun takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach our planet Earth. But interestingly, the same light actually takes 10,000 to 170,000 years to travel to Sun’s surface from the Sun’s core!
17. Sun’s core is about 2% of its total mass and extends only up to a quarter from the center to the surface. This core is denser than lead. Following the core is the radiative zone and then comes the convection zone.
18. Sun has an atmosphere of its own (it however cannot support life). The atmosphere lies beyond the convection zone.
19. The first layer of the atmosphere is the photosphere, followed by chromosphere and then the transition region followed by corona. Beyond the corona we find solar wind, which is actually a gaseous outflow.
20. The light we see from the Sun is actually emitted out from the photosphere which is the lowermost layer of Sun’s atmosphere.
Awesome Sun Facts 21-30
21.Photosphere is nearly 500 kilometers thick. This layer has a temperature of 6,125 degrees Celsius.
22. The next layer is the chromosphere which is around 1000 kilometers thick. Chromosphere is made of structures called spicules. These are spiky structures. This layer is hotter and has a temperature of 19,725 degrees Celsius.
23. Following the chromosphere is the transition region that extends several thousand kilometers above the chromosphere. This region is responsible for giving out the UV (ultraviolet) rays.
24. Above the transition region is the corona. This is made of streams and loops of ionized gases. It is basically the plasma aura that surrounds the Sun.
25. The corona generally has an average temperature of 500,000 degrees Celsius to 6 million degrees Celsius. During solar flares, the temperature of corona can reach beyond 10 million degrees Celsius.
26. Sun’s magnetic field is only 2 times stronger than that of Earth! But the magnetic pull becomes highly concentrated in smaller areas and can increase up to 3,000 times the magnetic pull of Earth.
27. This weird magnetic field of the Sun is caused by its unusual spins. At the equator, Sun spins more rapidly compared to rotation speed found at higher latitudes.
28. The inner parts of the Sun, i.e. its core and its radiative zone rotate at higher speeds than the surface. This produces Sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejection.
29. Solar flares are extremely violent. In fact, they are the most violent eruptions found in entire solar system. Coronal mass ejections on the other hand are extremely massive but less violent.
30. One coronal ejection can throw out nearly 20 billion tons of mass into open space!
Awesome Sun Facts 31-40
31. Coronal Mass Ejection or simply coronal ejection refers to the release colossal bubbles of plasma (or superheated gas).
32. A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) takes place over a span of several hours and within those hours, billions of tons of material are taken off from the surface of the Sun and hurled out into the outer space.
33. The material that is hurled out into the outer space during a CME travels at a great speed of nearly a million miles an hour or 1.6 million kilometers per hour.
34. One interesting fact about CME is that such ejections can take place several times in a single day when the Sun is very active. Usually however, CMEs happen only once every five days.
35. Just like Coronal Mass Ejections, solar flares are also eruptions that take place in the Sun. Solar flares are also gigantic explosions.
36. Both Coronal Mass Ejection and solar flare are characterized by gigantic energy explosions. However, the two are not the same.
37. Did you know that the Coronal Mass Ejection and solar flare can actually occur at the same time? It has been studied that strongest of the solar flares are nearly always correlated with CMEs.
38. Even though Coronal Mass Ejections and solar flares may occur at the same time, they always look different, they always have different way of traveling, their effects on nearby planets are always different and they always emit different things.
39. What causes Coronal Mass Ejections and solar flares? The driving factor behind both are same. They both occur when the motion of the interior of the Sun distorts the magnetic fields of the Sun.
40. But here is the thing: magnetic fields cannot stay distorted forever. They realign. The realignment takes place violently or explosively. This violent realignment ejects vast amounts of energy into the space.
Awesome Sun Facts 41-50
41.The violent realignment of the magnetic fields of the Sun is capable of creating a sudden flash. This flash of light is what we call solar flare.
42. Solar flares can last for a few minutes to a few hours. These flares contain colossal amounts of energy.
43. A Solar flare can reach Earth in 8 minutes when it travels at the speed of light.
44. Solar flares release energy. Some of the energy that these flares release is responsible for accelerating very high energy particles, which are capable of reaching our Earth within tens of minutes.
45. Think of a canon. When the canon fires, right around the muzzle you can see a flash. The cannonball on the other hand is directed into a particular direction. The cannonball will only affect the area that is targeted. Coronal Mass Ejections are like cannonballs.
46. When seen through solar telescopes, the difference between the solar flares and coronal mass ejections can be easily understood. Solar flares will appear as bright lights while coronal mass ejections will appear as enormous gas fans swelling into the space.
47. A solar flare has a different effect on Earth compared to a coronal mass ejection. When a solar flare hits our Earth, it affects and disrupts the areas of the atmosphere through which radio waves travel.
48. When a solar flare hits our Earth, it leads to degradation of communication and navigation signals. In worst case scenarios, there can be temporary blackouts in those signals.
49. Coronal mass ejections on the other hand funnels high energy particles into the near-Earth space.
50. A coronal mass ejection can collide with the magnetic fields of the Earth. This collision can lead to currents that eventually drive particles downwards towards the poles of the Earth.
Awesome Sun Facts 51-60
51.These particles then react with nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere and leads to the creation of magnificent auroras that are known as the Southern Lights and Northern Lights.
52. Not just that, the magnetic changes that happen because of collision of coronal mass ejections with the Earth’s magnetic fields also impacts a variety of technologies that are used by humans.
53. For instance, coronal mass ejections can lead to degradation of high frequency radio waves. Radios can start transmitting static. GPS coordinates can move away by a few yards.
54. The oscillations caused in Earth’s magnetic fields by the coronal mass ejections can lead to creation of electrical currents in the utility grids of our Earth. As a result of these electrical currents, electrical systems can be easily overloaded. So, the power companies need to stay prepared for such events.
55. Sunspots on the other hand are cool spots on the surface of Sun. They are nearly circular in size.
56. There are magnetic field lines bundled densely inside the Sun. When these bundles break through the surface, Sunspots appear.
57. The maximum number of Sunspots found in a cluster can be 250 and the minimum is zero (0). These Sunspots keep changing from 0 to 250 and then back to 0.
58. This swing from zero to 250 and then back to zero is known as a solar cycle and takes about 11 years to complete. When a solar cycle is completed, it is marked by rapid reversal in the polarity of the magnetic field.
59. Sunspots appear as dark spots on the Sun. They appear dark simply because they are a lot cooler compared to the other areas of the surface of the Sun.
60. Just because we are saying that sunspots are cooler, it doesn’t really mean that they are cool! They still have a temperature of around 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit or 3593.333 degrees Celsius.
Awesome Sun Facts 61-70
61. Why are sunspots cooler? The reason is that these spots are formed in areas where magnetic fields are very strong. The strong magnetic field manages to keep some heat inside the Sun, preventing it from reaching the surface of the Sun.
62. Did you know that Sun travels at a speed of 220 kilometers every one second? Well, that’s incredibly fast!
63. However, even with that kind of speed, it can complete one revolution around the galactic core (the central point of our Milky Way galaxy) in staggering 250 million years!
64. The distance of the Sun from the galactic core is 25,000 light years.
65. Did you know that Sun is our solar system’s largest mass accounting for 99.8% of the total mass?
66. Jupiter takes up the remaining mass and the remaining planets and galactic bodies in our solar system together form only a fraction of the total mass of our solar system!
67. Sun is closer to Earth compared to any other star in the whole universe.
68. The distance between the Sun and the Earth is 391 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
69. The distance between the Earth and the Sun is not constant. It keeps changing throughout the year.
70. If the Sun is removed from our Solar System, all planets, including our Earth will travel in a straight line.
Awesome Sun Facts 71-80
71. Compared to the gravity of Earth, the gravity of the Sun is 28 times stronger.
72. There is something called the Heliosphere. It is the bubble that surrounds the Sun and the entire Solar System
73. Scientists study the interior of the Sun. This line of study is known as the Helioseismology.
74. Wondering how the Sun is studied? With the help of various satellites! The main satellite that studies the Sun is the SOHO or the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
75. Ever heard of the term ‘Geomagnetic Storm’. It is a global disturbance of the magnetic field of the Earth. This disturbance is caused by the solar activities.
76. There are three types of energy that are released by the Sun. They are UV or Ultra Violet Light, IR or Infrared Light and Visible Light.
77. Take out Sun from our Solar System and life cannot exist on Earth. The Sun’s energy is used by plants to produce food through a process known as Photosynthesis.
78. All other life forms on our planet Earth are directly or indirectly dependent on plants. If Sun is removed, plants cannot exist and hence, every other life form ceases to exist.
79. The Ultra Violet Light that the Sun emits is really harmful for us. Luckily the light fails to reach us because of the Ozone layer present in the atmosphere of our Earth
80. The UV Light of the Sun can cause severe sunburns and even cancer by altering the DNA.
Awesome Sun Facts 81-90
81. Did you know that the energy released during a solar flare is equivalent to energy released by the explosion of millions of hydrogen bombs of 100 megatons each?
82. The energy released by a solar flare is about 10 million times greater than the energy released during a volcanic eruption. However, it is only 1/10th of the total energy released by the Sun in just 1 second.
83. The sunlight is the mixture of all colors. When all colors are mixed, it appears white.
84. During the day, the sunlight appears to have different colors. It is caused by the phenomenon known as atmospheric scattering.
85. During sunrise or the sunset, you may see a green flash of light. It is nothing put an optical illusion that is quite short lived. It happens when the light from the Sun is bent towards the viewers.
86. Just how bright is the Sun? If you light up 4 trillion trillion bulbs (each bulb of 100 watts), the brightness you get will be equal to the brightness of the Sun.
87. Do not try to look directly at the Sun during partial Solar Eclipse. It can harm your eyes because human eyes are not accustomed to such kind of contrast.
88. Any natural object that is closest to being a perfect sphere is the Sun.
89. Compared to our Moon, the Sun is 400 times larger.
90. Did you know that different parts of the Sun rotate at different speeds? At the equator, the rotation period is 27 days. At the poles, the rotation period is 36 days.
If you want more Sun facts or facts on any other topic, do let us know in the comment section below.