Most people know that the Sun is the center of our solar system. They know that it is a star. They know that it burns hot and they also know that it is essential for life on Earth. But aside from these basic facts, what do you really know about the Sun? We’ve put together a list of facts about the Sun to help you learn more about the center of our solar system. Ready to learn something new? Keep reading!
#1 The Sun Is the Most Massive Object in Our Solar System.
You probably know that the Sun is at the center of our solar system, but did you know that it is the most massive object in our solar system, too? In fact, the Sun is so large that it holds 99.8% of the solar system’s mass. Also, it measures about 109 times the diameter of Earth – meaning that about 1 million Earths could fit inside the Sun!
#2 The Sun Is Hot – Really Hot.
The Sun’s surface is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5,500 degrees Celsius). Temperatures at the Sun’s core can surpass 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius)! These extreme temperatures are driven by powerful nuclear reactions. In fact, if you wanted to match the energy produced by the Sun, NASA reports that you’d need to explode 100 billion tons of dynamite every second!
#3 The Sun Is Approximately 4.6 Billion Years Old.
The Sun is around 4.6 billion years old. Believe it or not, scientists consider the Sun to be relatively young. Our Sun is part of a generation of stars called Population I. These stars are relatively rich in elements heavier than helium. Population II is the name for an older generation of stars that predates our Sun and its cohorts. An older generation of stars called Population III may also have existed, although there are currently no known members.
#4 The Sun Travels at 220 km per Second.
The Sun travels at a rate of 220 km per second. This means it takes the Sun approximately 225 to 250 million years to complete one orbit around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Currently, the Sun is located around 24,000 to 26,000 light-years from the galactic center.
#5 The Sun Has Sunspots, Solar Flares, and CMEs.
Sunspots are relatively cool, dark areas on the Sun’s surface that are usually circular in shape. They appear dark because they are cooler than other parts of the Sun’s surface, although they are still very hot at about 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit! Sunspots form at areas where magnetic fields are so strong that they keep some of the heat within the Sun from reaching the surface. Solar flares can sometimes occur near sunspots, because in these areas, the magnetic field lines often tangle, cross, and/or reorganize. This can cause a sudden, intense explosion of energy, which is called a solar flare. Solar flares are so powerful that they release large amounts of radiation into space and can even interfere with communications on Earth! Solar flares are sometimes accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are huge bubbles of radiation and particles from the Sun that explode into space when the Sun’s magnetic field lines suddenly reorganize.
#6 The Solar Cycle Affects Sun Spots, Solar Flares, and CMEs.
The Sun’s magnetic field goes through something called the solar cycle. Each cycle lasts approximately 11 years. Because the number of sunspots and giant eruptions (including solar flares and coronal mass ejections) varies with solar magnetic activity, these phenomena are affected by the solar cycle. At the beginning of the solar cycle, there are usually few or even zero sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections. The number slowly increases until it peaks in the middle of the solar cycle. Then the number of sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections begins to decrease again as the solar cycle moves toward its end. The solar cycle culminates when the Sun's magnetic field rapidly reverses its polarity, at which point the sun cycle starts anew.
#7 It Takes About 8 Minutes for Light from the Sun to Reach Earth.
The average distance from the Sun to the Earth is approximately 150 million km and light travels at 300,000 km per second. Dividing one figure by the other gives you the precise time it takes for light from the Sun to reach Earth: 500 seconds, or 8 minutes and 20 seconds. Interestingly, while light from the Sun can reach Earth in less than 10 minutes, it takes millions of years for energy from the Sun’s core to reach the Sun’s surface.
#8 The Sun and Its Atmosphere Are Divided into Several Zones.
Moving from the inside out, the solar interior is made up of the core, the radiative zone, and the convective zone. The solar atmosphere is made up of the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona. Beyond the corona, there is the solar wind, which is an outflow of gas from the corona.
Want to learn even more facts about the sun? Then check out this brief video!
Still craving some more out-of-this-world science facts? Then why not check out our article on space?