That bright yellow orb in the sky has many fascinating facts that many take for granted. So let’s dig deeper and find out some little-known facts about the sun and our solar system.
Imagine the sun made from bananas.
That may sound rather odd, but stay with us for a moment and lets us work through this interesting theory. The sun as we know it is hot. The enormous weight of a billion billion-plus tons has created a vast gravity. This gravity has created pressure on its core. As the pressure increases, so does the temperature. The more the pressure, the greater the temperature. The greater the temperature, the hotter the sun.
Imagine then if, instead of hydrogen, you placed a billion billion billion tons of bananas up in space in place of the sun. The bananas would create just as much pressure and, therefore, as high of a temperature. If, however, the bananas weren’t made of hydrogen, then the fusion reaction that would keep it going wouldn’t take place, so our banana sun would cool down rapidly from its heat rather than burn for the billions of years as the sun.
We find that 74 percent of the mass of the sun comes from hydrogen.
This leaves 24 percent for helium, and we make up the remaining 2 percent of the mass with trace amounts of irons, nickel, oxygen, and other elements that create our Solar System. So imagine that the sun is 74 percent hydrogen.
The sun is huge.
With a surface of 1/4 million kilometers compared to the earth’s 13,000 kilometers. It would take more than 100 planets the size of the earth to span the size of the sun. The sun represents a mass of 99.8 percent of the mass of the entire solar system. This includes all other planets, moons, asteroids, and comets that orbit in our solar system. Jupiter makes up the remainder. The sun is more than 300,000 times as heavy as the earth.
Scientists believe the sun is 4.5 billion years old and expect the sun to last for at least another 5 billion years.
It will slowly use up its hydrogen supply and gradually burn itself out. Currently, it has used up approximately half of its hydrogen supply.
The sun is technically a star.
It’s considered an average star due to its size, age, and temperature, which places it in the middle range for all-stars. Considered a second-generation star due to its relatively young age, other stars are nearly as old as the universe, in other words, as old as 15 billion years. Though we consider it to be huge, in reality, it is very tiny. Many stars out there in the universe are several hundred times the size of the sun.
Let’s take the sun apart for a moment and separate the different elements.
Yes, the sun does actually have a structure; it’s not just a big round ball of fire in the sky. In fact, when we take it apart, we’ll find that the sun is actually made up of many different layers containing different elements.
Though the sun may look like a ball of fire, it is not a solid body. It’s, in fact, made up of different layers. The visible layer is called the photosphere. This layer heats up to 6,000 degrees Kelvin (The Kelvin scale is the thermodynamic temperature scale that is referenced to absolute zero degrees). Next, we have the convective zone, where the heat moves up slowly from the inner part of the sun to the sun’s surface. The cooled materials then fall back down to the surface in columns. Next, we have the radiative zone. Here heat only travels through radiation. Finally, the sun’s core extends from the center to a distance of 0.2 solar radii (radius). Here, temperatures can reach 13.6 million degrees, Kelvin. It is here that molecules of hydrogen are fused into helium.
The sun rotates differently according to which layer you are studying.
The equator region will complete a rotation in approximately 27 days, while the polar region will take a few more days and rotate approximately every 30 days. We can see how fast the surface is moving by tracking the travel or movement of the sunspots across the sun’s surface. The different gasses create this intriguing feature of differences in rotation. Noting how the sun rotates and comparing the sun’s rotation to the earth’s rotation, we can see that there is indeed a reason for the varying seasons here on earth.
Many consider the sun to be the brightest star in the universe.
In fact, the sun is only considered to be the 4th brightest star in the universe. Eta Carina and Betelgeuse are much brighter, but we barely see them at distances farther from the earth than the sun. The sun, by contrast, is a mere 17 light-years away from the earth and considered to be one of the 50 closest stars within our galaxy.
The light emitted from the sun is not a true yellow light but rather white. The earth’s atmosphere makes the sun appear to be yellow as the light rays filter through the various layers of our atmosphere, thus filtering the color from white to yellow. Much as we see things filtered through a camera lens, the sun’s rays are filtered as they beam down to earth’s atmosphere changing the white light to the yellow color we see.
The sun is believed to revolve around the Milky Way (our galaxy) every 225 to 250 million years.
These are galactic years, not our 365 day years. Galactic years are calculated according to how long it takes something (in this case, the sun) to revolve around the Milky Way.
The strong gravitational pull of the sun holds the earth and the other planets in place. Orbiting around the Milky Way galaxy at a distance of approximately 26,000 light-years from the center of our galaxy. Given such power, it’s no wonder it actually has many names. In Latin, the sun is called “Sol” from the original term of Solar as in Solar System.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that the sun rays that cause sunburn are invisible ultraviolet rays, and you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day.
Protect your skin, and remember that just because it’s cloudy out doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to the suns burning rays.
The sun, in its magnificence, takes on an entirely new dimension when we consider this little-known fun and weird facts about the sun.