May 08 2014

Five facts about the Sun

Here are five surprising facts about our Sun. As they are facts they are all true.

1) The Sun makes up 99% of the mass of our solar system. Yes, that’s right 99%. If you added all the other planets and moons, comets and asteroids together you would make up the other 1%. The Sun’s mass is 1.99×10^30 kg, or 1,990,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. The Earth is just 5.97×10^24 kg, a measly 0.000003% of the Sun.

2) The Sun burns through 600 million metric tons (600,000,000,000 kg) of fuel a second. That is a huge amount of fuel and it has been going for approximately 4.56 billion years and has another 6 billion years left to go. Just take a moment to get your head around those figures.

3) I takes the light in the core of the Sun about 170,000 years to reach the surface but only 8 minutes to reach Earth. There is so much activity going on in the core of the sun that the light keeps bumping into other atoms as it tries to escape, however, there is nothing to impede it’s journey to Earth.

4) The surface of the Sun has a temperature of about 5,800 kelvin (K) but the corona, the gas just above the surface of the Sun the chromosphere has a temperature of 25,000K. The chromosphere is heated by the energy release when the incredibly intense magnetic field lines in the sun draw hot plasma from the sun into the chromosphere. The magnetic field lines snap and reconnect releasing a huge amount of energy into the chromosphere heating it up.

5) Sunspots are colder spots on the Sun’s surface that appear dark in photographs taken on Earth. Typically they are approximately 4,300K in the centre but they can be bigger than the Earth in size. The sunspots increase and decrease in number over an 11 year cycle with the last peak in numbers being in 2013.

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