What is the Sun?

Do you know what is the sun? In an earlier question we explained that the sun is a star like many millions of other in the universe but why does the sun or any other star shine and give out its warmth?

What is the Sun?

Look at this illustration and see how tiny the Earth is, compared to the Sun.

The sun is more than one hundred times larger in diameter than the earth and over a million times larger in volume but its mass is only about 330,000 times more.

You know that the earth is solid and that gasses are usually lighter than solids, so that if you were to guess that the sun was made up mostly of gas you would be correct. By using an instrument called a spectrograph, which carefully examines the kind of light which the Sun is emitting, scientists have been able to prove that 70 or 80 percent of the sun is made up of hydrogen, which is the lightest material that we know of.

The rest is mainly another very light gas called helium’s from the Greek word helios meaning sun because it was first noticed there. You may have come across these two gasses because they have been used to fill airships and balloons.

What is the Sun?

A section through the Sun showing what the various parts are called. Faculae are bright areas and sunspots are dark spots that both appear on the surface. Prominences are clouds of intensely hot gas which appear to shoot up like flames from the surface of the Sun.

Why is the sun able to burns for so long without ever seeming to use up its fuel? The process is simple to explain but cannot successfully be repeated on earth even in a controlled way.

What is the Sun?

A view of the Sun showing faculae and sunspots.

All elements are made of tiny particles called atoms. The atoms of different elements are made up of different numbers of other particles, such as protons, neutrons, and electrons, giving each element its own special properties. In the Sun, atoms of hydrogen are constantly combining by a process called fusion into atoms of helium.

This happens at a temperature of about fourteen million degrees centigrade (remember that water boils at only100°C) and a tremendous amount of heat and light is liberated. There is so much hydrogen fuel that it will last a very long time particularly because of so little hydrogen releases so much heat.

What is the Sun?

A close-up of a sunspot shows that it has a darker inner part called the umbra and a lighter outer part called the penumbra.

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