Some Information about the Sun




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Some Information about the Sun
Warning! You should never look directly at the Sun! Only look at the Sun with special telescopes and filters, or by projecting an image of the Sun on a screen.


  • The Sun is a star—the nearest star! See Figure 1




  • How big is the Sun? How much does it weigh?




  • What’s the Sun made of?

    • Hot gas! ~75% Hydrogen, ~25% Helium + some heavier elements




  • How does the Sun (and other stars) work?

    • Nuclear fusion—2 Hydrogen atoms fuse together to make 1 Helium atom, and energy is released (E=mc2)

    • Like a big hydrogen bomb!

    • The fusion happens at the center of the Sun




  • How hot is the Sun?

    • The surface of the Sun that we see is ~6000 degrees

    • The center of the Sun is about 15 million degrees!







  • Why does the Sun not collapse under its own weight?




  • How do we study the Sun?

    • Using telescopes on the Earth (e.g. Kitt Peak Solar Telescope), and telescopes in space (e.g. SOHO)

    • Scientists also use computers to study the Sun

  • What can we see on the Sun?

    • Sunspots: these are places on the Sun that are cooler (by ~1500 deg) than the rest of the Sun, so they look darker (they’re still quite bright actually). See Figure 2

    • Prominences and filaments: dense, cold gas held above the Sun’s surface by the Sun’s magnetic field (you can think of the Sun like a big bar magnet). See Figure 3

    • Flares: Violent explosions that release lots of energy and particles from the Sun. See Figure 4.




  • How does the Sun affect the Earth?

    • It gives us heat and light—important for life.

    • It’s gravity keeps us in orbit around the Sun

    • Solar flares cause Northern Lights, can disrupt communications and power, and knock out satellites. See Figure 5







Fig 1: The Sun Fig 2: Sunspots Fig 3: Prominences

Figure 4: Figure 5:

Solar Prominence Northern Lights

Some WWW Pages on the Sun


http://www.spaceweather.com/

  • Daily Pictures of the Sun: http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/images/latest.html

  • The Sun from Solarviews.com (tons of info, pictures, movies, etc): http://www.solarviews.com/eng/sun.htm

  • The Sun from Nine Planets (also a great site): http://www.nineplanets.org/sol.html

  • The SOHO satellite (studying the Sun from space): http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/

  • NASA Sun Questions & Answers: http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/qa_sun.html

  • Curious About the Sun: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/sun.php


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