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The Sun is the
star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark ...

star
at the center of the
Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astronomical nomenclature, specifies capitalizing the names of all individual astronomical objects but uses mixed "Sola ...

Solar System
. It is a nearly perfect
ball A ball is a round object (usually spherical of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a geometrical object in three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional s ...
of hot
plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark–gluon plasma, a state of matter in quantum chromodynamics Biology * Blood plasma ...
, heated to
incandescence The incandescent metal embers of the spark used to light this blue color comes from the quantized transitions that result from the oxidation of CH radicals. Incandescence is the emission of electromagnetic radiation In physics P ...

incandescence
by
nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction, reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products ...

nuclear fusion
reactions in its core, radiating the
energy In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regula ...

energy
mainly as
visible light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visual perception, perceived by the human eye. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nano ...

visible light
,
ultraviolet light Ultraviolet (UV) is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelength In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural s ...
, and
infrared Infrared (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with wavelengths longer than those of Light, visible light. It is therefore invisible to the human eye. IR is generally understood to encompass wavelengths from ...

infrared
radiation. It is by far the most important source of
energy In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regula ...

energy
for
life Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities A bubble of exhaled gas in water In common usage and classical mechanics, a physical object or physical body (or simply an object or body) is a collection of matter within a ...

life
on
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
. Its diameter is about , or 109 times that of Earth. Its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth, and it accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three quarters of the Sun's
mass Mass is the quantity Quantity is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less", or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value ...
consists of
hydrogen Hydrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol H and atomic number 1. Hydrogen is the lightest element. At standard temperature and pressure, standard conditions hydrogen is a gas of diatomic molecules having the che ...

hydrogen
(~73%); the rest is mostly
helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectively. often given the epithets Hyperion ("the one above") and Phaethon ("the shining" ...

helium
(~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including
oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same ...

oxygen
,
carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a with the C and 6. It is lic and —making four s available to form s. It belongs to group 14 of the periodic table. Carbon makes up only about 0.025 percent of Earth's crust. Three occur naturally, ...

carbon
,
neon Neon is a chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that co ...

neon
and
iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

iron
. According to its spectral class, the Sun is a
G-type main-sequence star A G-type main-sequence star (Spectral type: G-V), often called a yellow dwarf, or G dwarf star, is a main-sequence star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own g ...
(G2V). As such, it is informally, and not completely accurately, referred to as a yellow dwarf (its light is closer to white than yellow). It formed approximately 4.6 billionAll numbers in this article are
short scale The long and short scales are two of several naming systems for integer powers of ten 480px, Visualisation of powers of 10 from one to 1 billion. A power of 10 is any of the integer An integer (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a cla ...
. One billion is 109, or 1,000,000,000.
years ago from the
gravitational collapse Gravitational collapse is the contraction of an astronomical object In , an astronomical object or celestial object is a naturally occurring , association, or structure that exists in the . In , the terms ''object'' and ''body'' are often ...
of matter within a region of a large
molecular cloud A molecular cloud, sometimes called a stellar nursery (if star formation is occurring within), is a type of interstellar cloud, the density and size of which permit absorption nebulae, the formation of molecules (most commonly molecular hydrogen, ...
. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central mass became so hot and dense that it eventually initiated
nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction, reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products ...

nuclear fusion
in its
core Core or cores may refer to: Science and technology * Core (anatomy) In common parlance, the core of the body is broadly considered to be the torso. Functional movements are highly dependent on this part of the body, and lack of core muscular dev ...
. It is thought that almost all stars . The Sun's core fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result. This energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape the core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. When
hydrogen fusion File:Binding energy curve - common isotopes.svg, 400 px, The nuclear binding energy curve. The formation of nuclei with masses up to iron-56 releases energy, as illustrated above. Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atoms are combi ...
in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in
hydrostatic equilibrium In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient Greek, Greek: ) is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, more specifically the relationships among fo ...

hydrostatic equilibrium
, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand, eventually transforming the Sun into a
red giant A red giant is a luminous giant star A giant star is a star with substantially larger radius and luminosity than a main sequence, main-sequence (or ''dwarf'') star of the same effective temperature, surface temperature.Giant star, entry in ''Ast ...

red giant
. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of
Mercury Mercury usually refers to: * Mercury (planet) Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman g ...

Mercury
and
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...

Venus
, and render Earth uninhabitable – but not for about five billion years. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a
white dwarf A white dwarf, also called a degenerate dwarf, is a stellar core remnant composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter Degenerate matter is a highly dense state of fermionic matter in which the Pauli exclusion principle exerts significant ...

white dwarf
, and no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion. The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since
prehistoric times Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study ...
. The Sun was thought of by some cultures as a
deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion), or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littleto ...
. The
synodic The orbital period is the time a given astronomical object takes to complete one orbit around another object, and applies in astronomy usually to planets or asteroids orbiting the Sun, moons orbiting planets, exoplanets orbiting other stars, or b ...
rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of some
solar calendar A solar calendar is a calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, specific day with ...
s. The predominant
calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, specific day within such a system. A calendar is also ...

calendar
in use today is the
Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, speci ...
which is based upon the standard 16th Century interpretation that the Sun's observed movement is primarily due to it actually moving.


Name and etymology

The
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
word ''sun'' developed from
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
. Cognates appear in other
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
, including West Frisian ,
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
,
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
,
Standard German Standard High German (SHG), less precisely Standard German or High German (not to be confused with High German The High German languages or High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the varieties of German spoken south ...
, Bavarian ,
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
, and
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
. All these words stem from
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
.Vladimir Orel (2003
''A Handbook of Germanic Etymology''
Brill
This is ultimately related to the word for ''sun'' in other branches of the
Indo-European language The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation ...
family, though in most cases a nominative stem with an ''l'' is found, rather than the genitive stem in ''n'', as for example in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
,
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
(),
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
and
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
(; pronounced ''sontse''), as well as (with *l > ''r'') Sanskrit () and
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
(). Indeed, the ''l''-stem survived in Proto-Germanic as well, as , which gave rise to Gothic (alongside ) and Old Norse prosaic (alongside poetic ), and through it the words for ''sun'' in the modern Scandinavian languages:
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
,
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
, etc. In English, the Greek and Latin words occur in poetry as personifications of the Sun,
Helios Helios; Homeric Greek Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic Greek, Ionic and Aeol ...

Helios
() and Sol (), while in science fiction ''Sol'' may be used as a name for the Sun to distinguish it from other stars. The term '' sol'' with a lower-case ''s'' is used by planetary astronomers for the duration of a
solar day A synodic day (or synodic rotation period or solar day) is the rotation period, period for a celestial object to rotate once in relation to the star it is orbiting, and is the basis of solar time. The synodic day is distinguished from the sidereal ...
on another planet such as
Mars Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury (planet), Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Mars (mythology), Roman god of war and is often referred to ...

Mars
. The principal adjectives for the Sun in English are ''sunny'' for sunlight and, in technical contexts, ''solar'' (), from Latin – the latter found in terms such as ''solar day'', ''
solar eclipse A solar eclipse occurs when a portion of the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The re ...

solar eclipse
'' and ''Solar System'' (occasionally ''Sol system''). From the Greek comes the rare adjective ''heliac'' (). The English weekday name ''
Sunday Sunday is the day of the week between Saturday and Monday. In most Western countries, Sunday is a day of rest and a part of the Workweek and weekend, weekend, whereas in much of the rest of the world, it is considered the first day of the week. ...

Sunday
'' stems from Old English "sun's day", a Germanic interpretation of the Latin phrase , itself a translation of the ancient Greek () 'day of the sun'. In 1842, the founder of the
Mormon Church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, is a Nontrinitarianism, nontrinitarian, Christianity, Christian Restorationism, restorationist church that considers itself to be the Re ...
,
Joseph Smith Joseph Smith Jr. (December 23, 1805June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism Mormonism is the religious tradition and theology of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationism, Restorationist Christian ...
, claimed to have translated the
Book of Abraham Image:Joseph Smith Papyrus I.jpg, 300px, A portion of the papyri used by Joseph Smith as the source of the Book of Abraham. The difference between Egyptologists' translation and Joseph Smith's interpretations has caused considerable controversy. Th ...
from
Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian culture, a complex and stable culture with thousands of years of r ...

Egyptian
papyri Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile, rags, poaceae, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, dr ...

papyri
by "inspiration" from God. In Abraham 3:13, Smith wrote that God told
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenan ...

Abraham
that the name of the sun was "Shinehah".


General characteristics

The Sun is a
G-type main-sequence star A G-type main-sequence star (Spectral type: G-V), often called a yellow dwarf, or G dwarf star, is a main-sequence star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own g ...
that constitutes about 99.86% of the mass of the Solar System. The Sun has an
absolute magnitude Absolute magnitude () is a measure of the of a , on an inverse scale. An object's absolute magnitude is defined to be equal to the that the object would have if it were viewed from a distance of exactly , without (or dimming) of its light du ...
of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the
Milky Way The Milky Way is the galaxy that includes our Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. ...

Milky Way
, most of which are
red dwarf A red dwarf is the smallest and coolest kind of star on the main sequence. Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way, at least in the neighborhood of the Sun, but because of their low luminosity, individual red dwarfs c ...
s. The Sun is a
Population I During 1944, Walter Baade categorized groups of stars within the Milky Way The Milky Way is the galaxy A galaxy is a gravitation Gravity (), or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass Mass is ...
, or heavy-element-rich, star. The formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from one or more nearby
supernova A supernova ( plural: supernovae or supernovas, abbreviations: SN and SNe) is a powerful and luminous stellar explosion. This transient astronomical event occurs during the last stellar evolution, evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a ...

supernova
e. This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the Solar System, such as
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
and
uranium Uranium is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elem ...

uranium
, relative to the abundances of these elements in so-called
Population II During 1944, Walter Baade Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade (March 24, 1893 – June 25, 1960) was a German astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the s ...
, heavy-element-poor, stars. The heavy elements could most plausibly have been produced by
endothermic In thermochemistry Thermochemistry is the study of the heat energy which is associated with chemical reactions and/or physical transformations. A reaction may release or absorb energy, and a phase change may do the same, such as in melting and bo ...
nuclear reactions during a supernova, or by transmutation through
neutron absorption Neutron capture is a nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Other forms of nuclear matter are also studied. Nuclear physics should not ...
within a massive second-generation star. The Sun is by far the brightest object in the Earth's sky, with an of −26.74. This is about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star,
Sirius Sirius () is the list of brightest stars, brightest star in the night sky. Its name is derived from the Ancient Greek language, Greek word (, 'glowing' or 'scorching'). The star is designated α Canis Majoris, Latinisation of name ...

Sirius
, which has an apparent magnitude of −1.46. is defined as the mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center, though the distance varies as Earth moves from
perihelion upright=1.15, The two-body system of interacting primary body (yellow); both are in elliptic orbits around their center of mass">common center of mass (or barycenter), (red +). ∗Periapsis and apoapsis as distances: The smallest and largest ...

perihelion
in January to
aphelion upright=1.15, The two-body system of interacting primary body A primary (also called a gravitational primary, primary body, or central body) is the main physical body of a gravity, gravitationally bound, multi-object system. This object consti ...

aphelion
in July. The distances can vary between 147,098,074 km (perihelion) and 152,097,701 km (aphelion), and extreme values can range from 147,083,346 km to 152,112,126 km. At its average distance, light travels from the Sun's horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this
sunlight Sunlight is a portion of the given off by the , in particular , , and light. On , sunlight is and through , and is obvious as when the Sun is above the . When direct is not blocked by s, it is experienced as sunshine, a combination of b ...

sunlight
supports almost all life
Hydrothermal vent communities A hydrothermal vent is a fissure vent, fissure on the seafloor from which Geothermal (geology), geothermally heated water discharges. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcano, volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are m ...
live so deep under the sea that they have no access to sunlight. Bacteria instead use sulfur compounds as an energy source, via
chemosynthesis In biochemistry, chemosynthesis is the biological conversion of one or more carbon-containing molecules (usually carbon dioxide or methane) and nutrients into organic matter using the oxidation of inorganic compounds (e.g., hydrogen gas, hydroge ...
.
on Earth by
photosynthesis Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to into that, through , can later be released to fuel the organism's activities. Some of this chemical energy is stored in molecules, such as s and es, which are synthesized fro ...

photosynthesis
, and drives Earth's climate and weather. The Sun does not have a definite boundary, but its density decreases exponentially with increasing height above the
photosphere The photosphere is a star's outer shell from which light is radiated. The term itself is derived from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient wor ...
. For the purpose of measurement, the Sun's radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the
photosphere The photosphere is a star's outer shell from which light is radiated. The term itself is derived from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient wor ...
, the apparent visible surface of the Sun. By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with an
oblateness Flattening is a measure of the compression of a circle or sphere along a diameter to form an ellipse or an ellipsoid of revolution (spheroid) respectively. Other terms used are ellipticity, or oblateness. The usual notation for flattening is an ...
estimated at 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only . The tidal effect of the planets is weak and does not significantly affect the shape of the Sun. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its
poles The Poles,, ; singular masculine: ''Polak'', singular feminine: ''Polka'' or Polish people, are a nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the loc ...
. This
differential rotation Differential rotation is seen when different parts of a rotating object move with different angular velocities (rates of rotation A rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center (or point) of rotation. The plane (geometry), ge ...
is caused by due to heat transport and the
Coriolis force In physics, the Coriolis force is an fictitious force, inertial or fictitious force that acts on objects that are in motion within a rotating reference frame, frame of reference that rotates with respect to an inertial frame. In a reference fra ...

Coriolis force
due to the Sun's rotation. In a frame of reference defined by the stars, the rotational period is approximately 25.6 days at the equator and 33.5 days at the poles. Viewed from Earth as it orbits the Sun, the ''apparent rotational period'' of the Sun at its equator is about 28 days. Viewed from a vantage point above its north pole, the Sun rotates
counterclockwise Two-dimensional rotation can occur in two possible directions. Clockwise motion (abbreviated CW) proceeds in the same direction as a clock's hands: from the top to the right, then down and then to the left, and back up to the top. The opposite sen ...
around its axis of spin.


Sunlight

The
solar constant The solar constant (''GSC'') is a flux density measuring mean solar electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature') ...
is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately (watts per square meter) at a distance of one
astronomical unit The astronomical unit (symbol: au, or or AU) is a unit of length, roughly the distance Distance is a numerical measurement of how far apart objects or points are. In physics or everyday usage, distance may refer to a physical length or ...

astronomical unit
(AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth). Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by
Earth's atmosphere The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being liquid, gas and plasma). The mo ...
, so that less power arrives at the surface (closer to ) in clear conditions when the Sun is near the
zenith The zenith is an imaginary point directly "above" a particular location, on the imaginary celestial sphere. "Above" means in the vertical direction (plumb line) opposite to the gravity direction at that location (nadir). The zenith is the "high ...

zenith
. Sunlight at the top of Earth's atmosphere is composed (by total energy) of about 50% infrared light, 40% visible light, and 10% ultraviolet light. The atmosphere in particular filters out over 70% of solar ultraviolet, especially at the shorter wavelengths. Solar
ultraviolet radiation Ultraviolet (UV) is a form of electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, ...
ionizes Earth's dayside upper atmosphere, creating the electrically conducting
ionosphere The ionosphere () is the ionized part of Earth's upper atmosphere, from about to altitude, a region that includes the thermosphere The thermosphere is the layer in the directly above the and below the . Within this layer of the atmosphere, ...
. The Sun emits light across the
visible spectrum The visible spectrum is the portion of the that is to the . in this range of s is called ' or simply . A typical will respond to wavelengths from about 380 to about 750 . In terms of frequency, this corresponds to a band in the vicinity of ...
, so its color is
white White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue). It is the color of snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black. White objects fully diffuse reflection, reflect and scattering, scatter all the visible spectrum, visible wa ...

white
, with a
CIE CIE may refer to: Organizations * Cambridge International Examinations, an international examination board * Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst * Cleveland Institute of Electronics, a private technical an ...
color-space index near (0.3, 0.3), when viewed from space or when the Sun is high in the sky. The Solar radiance per wavelength peaks in the green portion of the spectrum when viewed from space. When the Sun is low in the sky,
atmospheric scattering File:Spectrum of blue sky.svg, upright=1.9, The visible spectrum, about 380 to about 740 nanometers (nm), shows the atmospheric water absorption band and the solar Fraunhofer lines. The blue sky spectrum presents across 450–485 nm, the wavelen ...
renders the Sun yellow, red, orange, or magenta. Despite its typical whiteness, most people mentally picture the Sun as yellow; the reasons for this are the subject of debate. The Sun is a G2V star, with ''G2'' indicating its surface temperature of approximately 5,778 K (5,505 °C, 9,941 °F), and ''V'' that it, like most stars, is a
main-sequence In astronomy, the main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar Color index, color versus Absolute magnitude, brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams aft ...
star. The average
luminance Luminance is a measure of the per of travelling in a given direction. It describes the amount of light that passes through, is emitted from, or is reflected from a particular area, and falls within a given . is the for the ''subjective'' ...

luminance
of the Sun is about 1.88 giga 
candela per square metre The candela per square metre (symbol: cd/m2) is the derived SI unit of luminance Luminance is a Photometry (optics), photometric measure of the luminous intensity per units of measurement, unit area of light travelling in a given direction. It ...
, but as viewed through Earth's atmosphere, this is lowered to about 1.44 Gcd/m2. However, the luminance is not constant across the disk of the Sun, due to
limb darkening Limb darkening is an optical effect seen in stars (including the Sun), where the central part of the disk appears brighter than the edge, or '' limb''. Its understanding offered early solar astronomers an opportunity to construct models with such g ...
.


Composition

The Sun is composed primarily of the chemical elements
hydrogen Hydrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol H and atomic number 1. Hydrogen is the lightest element. At standard temperature and pressure, standard conditions hydrogen is a gas of diatomic molecules having the che ...

hydrogen
and
helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectively. often given the epithets Hyperion ("the one above") and Phaethon ("the shining" ...

helium
. At this time in the Sun's life, they account for 74.9% and 23.8% of the mass of the Sun in the photosphere, respectively.
All heavier elements, called ''
metals A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appearance, and conducts Electrical resistivity and conductivity, e ...
'' in astronomy, account for less than 2% of the mass, with oxygen (roughly 1% of the Sun's mass), carbon (0.3%), neon (0.2%), and iron (0.2%) being the most abundant. The Sun's original chemical composition was inherited from the
interstellar medium In astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses math ...
out of which it formed. Originally it would have contained about 71.1% hydrogen, 27.4% helium, and 1.5% heavier elements. The hydrogen and most of the helium in the Sun would have been produced by
Big Bang nucleosynthesis In physical cosmology Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology Cosmology (from Ancient Greek, Greek κόσμος, ''kosmos'' "world" and -λογία, ''-logia'' "study of") is a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the chr ...
in the first 20 minutes of the universe, and the heavier elements were produced by previous generations of stars before the Sun was formed, and spread into the interstellar medium during the and by events such as
supernova A supernova ( plural: supernovae or supernovas, abbreviations: SN and SNe) is a powerful and luminous stellar explosion. This transient astronomical event occurs during the last stellar evolution, evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a ...

supernova
e. Since the Sun formed, the main fusion process has involved fusing hydrogen into helium. Over the past 4.6 billion years, the amount of helium and its location within the Sun has gradually changed. Within the core, the proportion of helium has increased from about 24% to about 60% due to fusion, and some of the helium and heavy elements have settled from the photosphere towards the center of the Sun because of
gravity Gravity (), or gravitation, is a by which all things with or —including s, s, , and even —are attracted to (or ''gravitate'' toward) one another. , gravity gives to s, and the causes the s of the oceans. The gravitational attracti ...

gravity
. The proportions of metals (heavier elements) is unchanged. outward from the Sun's core by radiation rather than by convection (see Radiative zone below), so the fusion products are not lifted outward by heat; they remain in the core and gradually an inner core of helium has begun to form that cannot be fused because presently the Sun's core is not hot or dense enough to fuse helium. In the current photosphere, the helium fraction is reduced, and the
metallicity In astronomy, metallicity is the Abundance of the chemical elements, abundance of elements present in an object that are heavier than hydrogen and helium. Most of the normal physical matter in the Universe is either hydrogen or helium, and astron ...
is only 84% of what it was in the protostellar phase (before nuclear fusion in the core started). In the future, helium will continue to accumulate in the core, and in about 5 billion years this gradual build-up will eventually cause the Sun to exit the
main sequence In astronomy, the main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar Color index, color versus Absolute magnitude, brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams afte ...
and become a
red giant A red giant is a luminous giant star A giant star is a star with substantially larger radius and luminosity than a main sequence, main-sequence (or ''dwarf'') star of the same effective temperature, surface temperature.Giant star, entry in ''Ast ...

red giant
. The chemical composition of the photosphere is normally considered representative of the composition of the primordial Solar System. The solar heavy-element abundances described above are typically measured both using
spectroscopy Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way ...
of the Sun's photosphere and by measuring abundances in
meteorites A meteorite is a solid piece of debris from an object, such as a comet A comet is an icy, small Solar System body A small Solar System body (SSSB) is an object in the Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies ...

meteorites
that have never been heated to melting temperatures. These meteorites are thought to retain the composition of the protostellar Sun and are thus not affected by the settling of heavy elements. The two methods generally agree well.


Singly ionized iron-group elements

In the 1970s, much research focused on the abundances of iron-group elements in the Sun. Although significant research was done, until 1978 it was difficult to determine the abundances of some iron-group elements (e.g.
cobalt Cobalt is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical element ...

cobalt
and
manganese Manganese is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical e ...

manganese
) via
spectrography Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately compo ...
because of their hyperfine structures. The first largely complete set of oscillator strengths of singly ionized iron-group elements were made available in the 1960s, and these were subsequently improved. In 1978, the abundances of singly ionized elements of the iron group were derived.


Isotopic composition

Various authors have considered the existence of a gradient in the isotope, isotopic compositions of solar and planetary noble gases, e.g. correlations between isotopic compositions of
neon Neon is a chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that co ...

neon
and xenon in the Sun and on the planets. Prior to 1983, it was thought that the whole Sun has the same composition as the solar atmosphere. In 1983, it was claimed that it was fractionation in the Sun itself that caused the isotopic-composition relationship between the planetary and solar-wind-implanted noble gases.


Structure and fusion

The structure of the Sun contains the following layers: :*Core – the innermost 20–25% of the Sun's radius, where temperature and pressure are sufficient for
nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction, reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products ...

nuclear fusion
to occur. Hydrogen fuses into helium (which cannot itself be fused at this point in the Sun's life). The fusion process releases energy, and the core gradually becomes enriched in helium. :* Radiative zone – Convection cannot occur until much nearer to the surface of the Sun. Therefore, between about 20–25% of the radius, and 70% of the radius, there is a "radiative zone" in which energy transfer occurs by means of radiation (photons) rather than by convection. :* Tachocline – the boundary region between the radiative and convective zones. :* Convective zone – Between about 70% of the Sun's radius and a point close to the visible surface, the Sun is cool and diffuse enough for convection to occur, and this becomes the primary means of outward heat transfer, similar to weather cells which form in the earth's atmosphere. :Because the Sun is a gaseous object, it does not have a clearly defined surface; its visible parts are usually divided into a "photosphere" and "atmosphere": :* Photosphere – the deepest part of the Sun which we can directly observe with visible light. :* Atmosphere – a gaseous "halo" surrounding the Sun, comprising the chromosphere, solar transition region, solar corona, corona and heliosphere. These can be seen when the main part of the Sun is hidden, for example, during a
solar eclipse A solar eclipse occurs when a portion of the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The re ...

solar eclipse
. Temperaturverteilung sonne.svg, Temperature profile in the Sun Masseverteilung sonne.svg, Mass inside a given radius Dichteverteilung sonne.svg, Density profile Druckverteilung sonne.svg, Pressure profile


Core

The Solar core, core of the Sun extends from the center to about 20–25% of the solar radius. It has a density of up to (about 150 times the density of water) and a temperature of close to 15.7 million kelvins (K). By contrast, the Sun's surface temperature is approximately . Recent analysis of Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, SOHO mission data favors a faster rotation rate in the core than in the radiative zone above. Through most of the Sun's life, energy has been produced by nuclear fusion in the core region through a series of nuclear reactions called the Proton–proton chain reaction, p–p (proton–proton) chain; this process converts hydrogen into helium. Only 0.8% of the energy generated in the Sun comes from another sequence of fusion reactions called the CNO cycle, though this proportion is expected to increase as the Sun becomes older. The core is the only region in the Sun that produces an appreciable amount of thermal energy through fusion; 99% of the power is generated within 24% of the Sun's radius, and by 30% of the radius, fusion has stopped nearly entirely. The remainder of the Sun is heated by this energy as it is transferred outwards through many successive layers, finally to the solar photosphere where it escapes into space through radiation (photons) or advection (massive particles). The proton–proton chain occurs around times each second in the core, converting about 3.7 protons into alpha particles (helium nuclei) every second (out of a total of ~8.9 free protons in the Sun), or about . Fusing four free protons (hydrogen nuclei) into a single alpha particle (helium nucleus) releases around 0.7% of the fused mass as energy, so the Sun releases energy at the mass–energy conversion rate of 4.26 million metric tons per second (which requires 600 metric megatons of hydrogen ), for 384.6 Yotta-, yottawatts (), or 9.192 TNT equivalent, megatons of TNT per second. The large power output of the Sun is mainly due to the huge size and density of its core (compared to Earth and objects on Earth), with only a fairly small amount of power being generated per cubic metre. Theoretical models of the Sun's interior indicate a maximum power density, or energy production, of approximately 276.5 watts per cubic metre at the center of the core, which is about the same power density inside a compost pile. The fusion rate in the core is in a self-correcting equilibrium: a slightly higher rate of fusion would cause the core to heat up more and thermal expansion, expand slightly against the weight of the outer layers, reducing the density and hence the fusion rate and correcting the Perturbation (astronomy), perturbation; and a slightly lower rate would cause the core to cool and shrink slightly, increasing the density and increasing the fusion rate and again reverting it to its present rate.


Radiative zone

From the core out to about 0.7 Solar radius, solar radii, thermal radiation is the primary means of energy transfer. The temperature drops from approximately 7 million to 2 million kelvins with increasing distance from the core. This temperature gradient is less than the value of the adiabatic lapse rate and hence cannot drive convection, which explains why the transfer of energy through this zone is by radiation instead of thermal convection. Ions of hydrogen and helium emit photons, which travel only a brief distance before being reabsorbed by other ions. The density drops a hundredfold (from 20 g/cm3 to 0.2 g/cm3) between 0.25 solar radii and 0.7 radii, the top of the radiative zone.


Tachocline

The radiative zone and the convective zone are separated by a transition layer, the tachocline. This is a region where the sharp regime change between the uniform rotation of the radiative zone and the differential rotation of the convection zone results in a large shear (fluid), shear between the two—a condition where successive horizontal layers slide past one another. Presently, it is hypothesized (see Solar dynamo) that a magnetic dynamo within this layer generates the Sun's magnetic field.


Convective zone

The Sun's convection zone extends from 0.7 solar radii (500,000 km) to near the surface. In this layer, the solar plasma is not dense enough or hot enough to transfer the heat energy of the interior outward via radiation. Instead, the density of the plasma is low enough to allow convective currents to develop and move the Sun's energy outward towards its surface. Material heated at the tachocline picks up heat and expands, thereby reducing its density and allowing it to rise. As a result, an orderly motion of the mass develops into thermal cells that carry the majority of the heat outward to the Sun's photosphere above. Once the material diffusively and radiatively cools just beneath the photospheric surface, its density increases, and it sinks to the base of the convection zone, where it again picks up heat from the top of the radiative zone and the convective cycle continues. At the photosphere, the temperature has dropped to 5,700 K and the density to only 0.2 g/m3 (about 1/10,000 the density of air at sea level). The thermal columns of the convection zone form an imprint on the surface of the Sun giving it a granular appearance called the granule (solar physics), solar granulation at the smallest scale and supergranulation at larger scales. Turbulent convection in this outer part of the solar interior sustains "small-scale" dynamo action over the near-surface volume of the Sun. The Sun's thermal columns are Bénard cells and take the shape of roughly hexagonal prisms.


Photosphere

The visible surface of the Sun, the photosphere, is the layer below which the Sun becomes opacity (optics), opaque to visible light. Photons produced in this layer escape the Sun through the transparent solar atmosphere above it and become solar radiation, sunlight. The change in opacity is due to the decreasing amount of Hydrogen anion, H ions, which absorb visible light easily. Conversely, the visible light we see is produced as electrons react with hydrogen atoms to produce H ions. The photosphere is tens to hundreds of kilometers thick, and is slightly less opaque than air on Earth. Because the upper part of the photosphere is cooler than the lower part, an image of the Sun appears brighter in the center than on the edge or ''limb'' of the solar disk, in a phenomenon known as limb darkening. The spectrum of sunlight has approximately the spectrum of a black-body radiating at , interspersed with atomic absorption lines from the tenuous layers above the photosphere. The photosphere has a particle density of ~1023 m−3 (about 0.37% of the particle number per volume of Earth's atmosphere at sea level). The photosphere is not fully ionized—the extent of ionization is about 3%, leaving almost all of the hydrogen in atomic form. During early studies of the optical spectrum of the photosphere, some absorption lines were found that did not correspond to any chemical elements then known on Earth. In 1868, Norman Lockyer hypothesized that these absorption lines were caused by a new element that he dubbed ''helium'', after the Greek Sun god
Helios Helios; Homeric Greek Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic Greek, Ionic and Aeol ...

Helios
. Twenty-five years later, helium was isolated on Earth.


Atmosphere

During a total solar eclipse, when the disk of the Sun is covered by that of the Moon, parts of the Sun's surrounding atmosphere can be seen. It is composed of four distinct parts: the chromosphere, the transition region, the corona and the heliosphere. The coolest layer of the Sun is a temperature minimum region extending to about above the photosphere, and has a temperature of about . This part of the Sun is cool enough to allow the existence of simple molecules such as carbon monoxide and water, which can be detected via their absorption spectra. The chromosphere, transition region, and corona are much hotter than the surface of the Sun. The reason is not well understood, but evidence suggests that Alfvén waves may have enough energy to heat the corona. Above the temperature minimum layer is a layer about thick, dominated by a spectrum of emission and absorption lines. It is called the ''chromosphere'' from the Greek root ''chroma'', meaning color, because the chromosphere is visible as a colored flash at the beginning and end of total solar eclipses. The temperature of the chromosphere increases gradually with altitude, ranging up to around near the top. In the upper part of the chromosphere helium becomes partially ionization, ionized. Above the chromosphere, in a thin (about ) transition region, the temperature rises rapidly from around in the upper chromosphere to coronal temperatures closer to . The temperature increase is facilitated by the full ionization of helium in the transition region, which significantly reduces radiative cooling of the plasma. The transition region does not occur at a well-defined altitude. Rather, it forms a kind of Halo (optical phenomenon), nimbus around chromospheric features such as Spicule (solar physics), spicules and Solar filament, filaments, and is in constant, chaotic motion. The transition region is not easily visible from Earth's surface, but is readily observable from outer space, space by instruments sensitive to the extreme ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, spectrum. The corona is the next layer of the Sun. The low corona, near the surface of the Sun, has a particle density around 1015 m−3 to 1016 m−3. The average temperature of the corona and solar wind is about 1,000,000–2,000,000 K; however, in the hottest regions it is 8,000,000–20,000,000 K. Although no complete theory yet exists to account for the temperature of the corona, at least some of its heat is known to be from magnetic reconnection. The corona is the extended atmosphere of the Sun, which has a volume much larger than the volume enclosed by the Sun's photosphere. A flow of plasma outward from the Sun into Outer space, interplanetary space is the solar wind. The heliosphere, the tenuous outermost atmosphere of the Sun, is filled with the solar wind plasma. This outermost layer of the Sun is defined to begin at the distance where the flow of the solar wind becomes ''superalfvénic''—that is, where the flow becomes faster than the speed of Alfvén waves, at approximately 20 solar radii (0.1 AU). Turbulence and dynamic forces in the heliosphere cannot affect the shape of the solar corona within, because the information can only travel at the speed of Alfvén waves. The solar wind travels outward continuously through the heliosphere, forming the solar magnetic field into a Parker spiral, spiral shape, until it impacts the Heliopause (astronomy), heliopause more than from the Sun. In December 2004, the ''Voyager 1'' probe passed through a shock front that is thought to be part of the heliopause. In late 2012 ''Voyager 1'' recorded a marked increase in cosmic ray collisions and a sharp drop in lower energy particles from the solar wind, which suggested that the probe had passed through the heliopause and entered the
interstellar medium In astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses math ...
, and indeed did so August 25, 2012 at approximately 122 astronomical units from the Sun. The heliosphere has a Heliosphere#Heliotail, heliotail which stretches out behind it due to the Sun's movement.


Photons and neutrinos

High-energy gamma ray photons initially released with fusion reactions in the core are almost immediately absorbed by the solar plasma of the radiative zone, usually after traveling only a few millimeters. Re-emission happens in a random direction and usually at slightly lower energy. With this sequence of emissions and absorptions, it takes a long time for radiation to reach the Sun's surface. Estimates of the photon travel time range between 10,000 and 170,000 years. In contrast, it takes only 2.3 seconds for the neutrinos, which account for about 2% of the total energy production of the Sun, to reach the surface. Because energy transport in the Sun is a process that involves photons in thermodynamic equilibrium with matter, the time scale of energy transport in the Sun is longer, on the order of 30,000,000 years. This is the time it would take the Sun to return to a stable state if the rate of energy generation in its core were suddenly changed. Neutrinos are also released by the fusion reactions in the core, but, unlike photons, they rarely interact with matter, so almost all are able to escape the Sun immediately. For many years measurements of the number of neutrinos produced in the Sun were Solar neutrino problem, lower than theories predicted by a factor of 3. This discrepancy was resolved in 2001 through the discovery of the effects of neutrino oscillation: the Sun emits the number of neutrinos predicted by the theory, but neutrino detectors were missing of them because the neutrinos had changed flavor (particle physics), flavor by the time they were detected.


Magnetic activity


Magnetic field

The Sun has a magnetic field that varies across its surface. Its polar field is , whereas the field is typically in features on the Sun called sunspots and in solar prominences. The magnetic field varies in time and location. The quasi-periodic 11-year solar cycle is the most prominent variation in which the number and size of sunspots waxes and wanes. Sunspots are visible as dark patches on the Sun's
photosphere The photosphere is a star's outer shell from which light is radiated. The term itself is derived from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient wor ...
and correspond to concentrations of magnetic field where the convective transport of heat is inhibited from the solar interior to the surface. As a result, sunspots are slightly cooler than the surrounding photosphere, so they appear dark. At a typical solar minimum, few sunspots are visible, and occasionally none can be seen at all. Those that do appear are at high solar latitudes. As the solar cycle progresses towards its solar maximum, maximum, sunspots tend to form closer to the solar equator, a phenomenon known as Spörer's law. The largest sunspots can be tens of thousands of kilometers across. An 11-year sunspot cycle is half of a 22-year Babcock Model, Babcock–Leighton solar dynamo, dynamo cycle, which corresponds to an oscillatory exchange of energy between toroidal and poloidal solar magnetic fields. At solar-cycle maximum, the external poloidal dipolar magnetic field is near its dynamo-cycle minimum strength, but an internal Toroidal and poloidal, toroidal quadrupolar field, generated through differential rotation within the tachocline, is near its maximum strength. At this point in the dynamo cycle, buoyant upwelling within the convective zone forces emergence of the toroidal magnetic field through the photosphere, giving rise to pairs of sunspots, roughly aligned east–west and having footprints with opposite magnetic polarities. The magnetic polarity of sunspot pairs alternates every solar cycle, a phenomenon known as the Hale cycle. During the solar cycle's declining phase, energy shifts from the internal toroidal magnetic field to the external poloidal field, and sunspots diminish in number and size. At solar-cycle minimum, the toroidal field is, correspondingly, at minimum strength, sunspots are relatively rare, and the poloidal field is at its maximum strength. With the rise of the next 11-year sunspot cycle, differential rotation shifts magnetic energy back from the poloidal to the toroidal field, but with a polarity that is opposite to the previous cycle. The process carries on continuously, and in an idealized, simplified scenario, each 11-year sunspot cycle corresponds to a change, then, in the overall polarity of the Sun's large-scale magnetic field. The solar magnetic field extends well beyond the Sun itself. The electrically conducting solar wind plasma carries the Sun's magnetic field into space, forming what is called the interplanetary magnetic field. In an approximation known as ideal magnetohydrodynamics, plasma particles only move along the magnetic field lines. As a result, the outward-flowing solar wind stretches the interplanetary magnetic field outward, forcing it into a roughly radial structure. For a simple dipolar solar magnetic field, with opposite hemispherical polarities on either side of the solar magnetic equator, a thin heliospheric current sheet, current sheet is formed in the solar wind. At great distances, the rotation of the Sun twists the dipolar magnetic field and corresponding current sheet into an Archimedean spiral structure called the Parker spiral. The interplanetary magnetic field is much stronger than the dipole component of the solar magnetic field. The Sun's dipole magnetic field of 50–400 tesla (unit), μT (at the photosphere) reduces with the inverse-cube of the distance, leading to a predicted magnetic field of 0.1 nT at the distance of Earth. However, according to spacecraft observations the interplanetary field at Earth's location is around 5 nT, about a hundred times greater. The difference is due to magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in the plasma surrounding the Sun.


Variation in activity

The Sun's magnetic field leads to many effects that are collectively called solar variation, solar activity. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections, coronal-mass ejections tend to occur at sunspot groups. Slowly changing high-speed streams of solar wind are emitted from coronal holes at the photospheric surface. Both coronal-mass ejections and high-speed streams of solar wind carry plasma and interplanetary magnetic field outward into the Solar System. The effects of solar activity on Earth include aurora (astronomy), auroras at moderate to high latitudes and the disruption of radio communications and electric power. Solar activity is thought to have played a large role in the formation and evolution of the Solar System. With solar-cycle modulation of sunspot number comes a corresponding modulation of space weather conditions, including those surrounding Earth where technological systems can be affected. In December 2019, a new type of solar magnetic explosion was observed, known as forced magnetic reconnection. Previously, in a process called spontaneous magnetic reconnection, it was observed that the solar magnetic field lines diverge explosively and then converge again instantaneously. Forced Magnetic Reconnection was similar, but it was triggered by an explosion in the corona.


Long-term change

Long-term secular change in sunspot number is thought, by some scientists, to be correlated with long-term change in solar irradiance, which, in turn, might influence Earth's long-term climate. For example, in the 17th century, the solar cycle appeared to have stopped entirely for several decades; few sunspots were observed during a period known as the Maunder minimum. This coincided in time with the era of the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold temperatures. Earlier extended minima have been discovered through analysis of tree rings and appear to have coincided with lower-than-average global temperatures. A recent theory claims that there are magnetic instabilities in the core of the Sun that cause fluctuations with periods of either 41,000 or 100,000 years. These could provide a better explanation of the ice ages than the Milankovitch cycles.


Life phases

The Sun today is roughly halfway through the most stable part of its life. It has not changed dramatically for over four billion years and will remain fairly stable for more than five billion more. However, after hydrogen fusion in its core has stopped, the Sun will undergo dramatic changes, both internally and externally.


Formation

The Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the collapse of part of a giant
molecular cloud A molecular cloud, sometimes called a stellar nursery (if star formation is occurring within), is a type of interstellar cloud, the density and size of which permit absorption nebulae, the formation of molecules (most commonly molecular hydrogen, ...
that consisted mostly of hydrogen and helium and that probably gave birth to many other stars. This age is estimated using computer simulation, computer models of stellar evolution and through nucleocosmochronology. The result is consistent with the radiometric dating, radiometric date of the oldest Solar System material, at 4.567 billion years ago. Studies of ancient meteorites reveal traces of stable daughter nuclei of short-lived isotopes, such as iron-60, that form only in exploding, short-lived stars. This indicates that one or more supernovae must have occurred near the location where the Sun formed. A shock wave from a nearby supernova would have triggered the formation of the Sun by compressing the matter within the molecular cloud and causing certain regions to collapse under their own gravity. As one fragment of the cloud collapsed it also began to rotate due to conservation of angular momentum and heat up with the increasing pressure. Much of the mass became concentrated in the center, whereas the rest flattened out into a disk that would become the planets and other Solar System bodies. Gravity and pressure within the core of the cloud generated a lot of heat as it accumulated more matter from the surrounding disk, eventually triggering stellar nucleosynthesis, nuclear fusion. HD 162826 and HD 186302 are hypothesized stellar siblings of the Sun, having formed in the same molecular cloud.


Main sequence

The Sun is about halfway through its main-sequence stage, during which nuclear fusion reactions in its core fuse hydrogen into helium. Each second, more than four million tonnes of matter are converted into energy within the Sun's core, producing neutrinos and solar radiation. At this rate, the Sun has so far converted around 100 times the mass of Earth into energy, about 0.03% of the total mass of the Sun. The Sun will spend a total of approximately 10 billion years as a main-sequence star. The Sun is gradually becoming hotter in its core, hotter at the surface, larger in radius, and more luminous during its time on the main sequence: since the beginning of its main sequence life, it has expanded in radius by 15% and the surface has increased in temperature from to , resulting in a 48% increase in luminosity from 0.677 solar luminosity, solar luminosities to its present-day 1.0 solar luminosity. This occurs because the helium atoms in the core have a higher mean molecular weight than the hydrogen atoms that were fused, resulting in less thermal pressure. The core is therefore shrinking, allowing the outer layers of the Sun to move closer to the center, releasing gravitational potential energy. According to the virial theorem, half this released gravitational energy goes into heating, which leads to a gradual increase in the rate at which fusion occurs and thus an increase in the luminosity. This process speeds up as the core gradually becomes denser. At present, it is increasing in brightness by about 1% every 100 million years. It takes at least 1 billion years from now to deplete liquid water from the Earth from such increase.


After core hydrogen exhaustion

The Sun does not have enough mass to explode as a
supernova A supernova ( plural: supernovae or supernovas, abbreviations: SN and SNe) is a powerful and luminous stellar explosion. This transient astronomical event occurs during the last stellar evolution, evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a ...

supernova
. Instead, when it runs out of hydrogen in the core in approximately 5 billion years, core hydrogen fusion will stop and there will be nothing to prevent the core from contracting. The release of gravitational potential energy causes the luminosity of the star to increase, ending the main sequence phase and leading the star to expand over the next billion years: first into a subgiant, and then into a
red giant A red giant is a luminous giant star A giant star is a star with substantially larger radius and luminosity than a main sequence, main-sequence (or ''dwarf'') star of the same effective temperature, surface temperature.Giant star, entry in ''Ast ...

red giant
. The heating due to gravitational contraction will also lead to hydrogen fusion in a shell just outside the core, where unfused hydrogen remains, contributing to the increased luminosity, which will eventually reach more than 1000 times its present luminosity. As a red giant, the Sun will grow so large that it will engulf Mercury, Venus, and probably Earth, reaching about 0.75AU. The Sun will spend around a billion years as a red-giant branch star and lose around a third of its mass. After the red-giant branch, the Sun has approximately 120 million years of active life left, but much happens. First, the core, full of degenerate matter, degenerate helium ignites violently in the helium flash, where it is estimated that 6% of the core, itself 40% of the Sun's mass, will be converted into carbon within a matter of minutes through the triple-alpha process. The Sun then shrinks to around 10 times its current size and 50 times the luminosity, with a temperature a little lower than today. It will then have reached the red clump or horizontal branch, but a star of the Sun's metallicity does not evolve blueward along the horizontal branch. Instead, it just becomes moderately larger and more luminous over about 100 million years as it continues to react helium in the core. When the helium is exhausted, the Sun will repeat the expansion it followed when the hydrogen in the core was exhausted, except that this time it all happens faster, and the Sun becomes larger and more luminous. This is the asymptotic giant branch, asymptotic-giant-branch phase, and the Sun is alternately reacting hydrogen in a shell or helium in a deeper shell. After about 20 million years on the early asymptotic giant branch, the Sun becomes increasingly unstable, with rapid mass loss and thermal pulses that increase the size and luminosity for a few hundred years every 100,000 years or so. The thermal pulses become larger each time, with the later pulses pushing the luminosity to as much as 5,000 times the current level and the radius to over 1 AU. According to a 2008 model, Earth's orbit will have initially expanded significantly due to the Sun's loss of mass as a red giant, but will later start shrinking due to tidal forces (and, eventually, drag from the lower chromosphere) so that it is engulfed by the Sun during the tip of the red-giant branch phase, 3.8 and 1 million years after Mercury and Venus have respectively suffered the same fate. Models vary depending on the rate and timing of mass loss. Models that have higher mass loss on the red-giant branch produce smaller, less luminous stars at the tip of the asymptotic giant branch, perhaps only 2,000 times the luminosity and less than 200 times the radius. For the Sun, four thermal pulses are predicted before it completely loses its outer envelope and starts to make a planetary nebula. By the end of that phase—lasting approximately 500,000 years—the Sun will only have about half of its current mass. The post-asymptotic-giant-branch evolution is even faster. The luminosity stays approximately constant as the temperature increases, with the ejected half of the Sun's mass becoming ionized into a planetary nebula as the exposed core reaches 30,000 K, as if it is in a sort of blue loop. The final naked core, a
white dwarf A white dwarf, also called a degenerate dwarf, is a stellar core remnant composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter Degenerate matter is a highly dense state of fermionic matter in which the Pauli exclusion principle exerts significant ...

white dwarf
, will have a temperature of over 100,000 K, and contain an estimated 54.05% of the Sun's present-day mass. The planetary nebula will disperse in about 10,000 years, but the white dwarf will survive for trillions of years before fading to a hypothetical black dwarf.


Motion and location


Motion in the Solar System

The Sun is moved by the gravitational pull of the planets. One can think of the barycentre of the Solar System as being stationary (or as moving in a steady motion around the galaxy). The centre of the sun is always within 2.2 solar radii of the barycentre. This motion of the Sun is mainly due to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. For some periods of several decades, the motion is rather regular, forming a trefoil pattern, whereas between these periods it appears more chaotic. After 179 years (nine times the synodic period of Jupiter and Saturn) the pattern more or less repeats, but rotated by about 24°. The orbits of the inner planets, including of the Earth, are similarly displaced by the same gravitational forces, so the movement of the Sun has little effect on the relative positions of the Earth and the Sun or on solar irradiance on the Earth as a function of time.


Orbit in Milky Way

The Sun orbits the center of the Milky Way, and it is presently moving in the direction of the constellation of Cygnus (constellation), Cygnus. A simple model of the motion of a star in the galaxy gives the galactic coordinates , , and as: :X(t)=X(0)+\frac\kappa\sin(\kappa t)+\frac(1-\cos(\kappa t)) :Y(t)=Y(0)+2A\left(X(0)+\frac\right)t-\fracV(0)\sin(\kappa t)+\fracU(0)(1-\cos(\kappa t)) :Z(t)=\frac\nu\sin(\nu t)+Z(0)\cos(\nu t) where , , and are the respective velocities with respect to the local standard of rest, and are the Oort constants, \Omega_0=A-B is the angular velocity of galactic rotation for the local standard of rest, \kappa=\sqrt is the "epicyclic frequency", and ν is the vertical oscillation frequency. For the sun, the present values of , , and are estimated as (U(0),V(0),W(0))=(10.00, 5.25, 7.17) km/s, and estimates for the other constants are  = 15.5 km/s/kiloparsec, kpc,  = −12.2 km/s/kpc, κ = 37 km/s/kpc, and ν=74 km/s/kpc. We take and to be zero and is estimated to be 17 parsecs. This model implies that the Sun circulates around a point that is itself going around the galaxy. The period of the Sun's circulation around the point is 2\pi/\kappa. which, using the equivalence that a parsec equals 1 km/s times 0.978 million years, comes to 166 million years, shorter than the time it takes for the point to go around the galaxy. In the () coordinates, the Sun describes an ellipse around the point, whose length in the direction is :2\times\sqrt=1035\text. and whose width in the direction is :2\times\sqrt=691\text The ratio of length to width of this ellipse, the same for all stars in our neighborhood, is 2\Omega/\kappa\approx 1.50. The moving point is presently at :X=\frac=-215\text :Y=\fracU(0)=405\text. The oscillation in the direction takes the Sun :\sqrt=98\text above the galactic plane and the same distance below it, with a period of 2\pi/\nu or 83 million years, approximately 2.7 times per orbit. Although 2\pi/\Omega_0 is 222 million years, the value of \Omega at the point around which the Sun circulates is :\Omega\approx\Omega_0-\frac\Delta X\approx 26.1\text (see Oort constants), corresponding to 235 million years, and this is the time that the point takes to go once around the galaxy. Other stars with the same value of X+V/(2B) have to take the same amount of time to go around the galaxy as the sun and thus remain in the same general vicinity as the Sun. The Sun's orbit around the Milky Way is perturbed due to the non-uniform mass distribution in Milky Way, such as that in and between the galactic spiral arms. It has been argued that the Sun's passage through the higher density spiral arms often coincides with mass extinctions on Earth, perhaps due to increased impact events. It takes the Solar System about 225–250 million years to complete one orbit through the Milky Way (a ''galactic year''), so it is thought to have completed 20–25 orbits during the lifetime of the Sun. The orbital speed of the Solar System about the center of the Milky Way is approximately 251 km/s (156 mi/s). At this speed, it takes around 1,190 years for the Solar System to travel a distance of 1 light-year, or 7 days to travel . The Milky Way is moving with respect to the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in the direction of the constellation Hydra (constellation), Hydra with a speed of 550 km/s, and the Sun's resultant velocity with respect to the CMB is about 370 km/s in the direction of Crater (constellation), Crater or Leo (constellation), Leo.


Galactic location

The Sun lies close to the inner rim of the
Milky Way The Milky Way is the galaxy that includes our Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. ...

Milky Way
's Orion Arm, in the Local Interstellar Cloud or the Gould Belt, at a distance of from the Galactic Center. The Sun is contained within the Local Bubble, a space of rarefied hot gas, possibly produced by the supernova remnant Geminga, or multiple supernovae in subgroup B1 of the Pleiades moving group. The distance between the local arm and the next arm out, the Perseus Arm, is about 6,500 light-years. The Sun, and thus the Solar System, is found in what scientists call the galactic habitable zone. The ''Apex of the Sun's Way'', or the solar apex, is the direction that the Sun travels relative to other nearby stars. This motion is towards a point in the constellation Hercules (constellation), Hercules, near the star Vega. Stars within 100 parsecs of the sun (326 light-years) have speeds relative to the sun which can be modeled approximately by a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution (especially for the lower speeds) or a log normal distribution (especially for the higher speeds), but with more high-speed stars (greater than 300 km/s) than predicted by either distribution. The mean velocity of these stars (not the mean speed) relative to the sun (or the mean velocity of the sun relative to them) is around 20 km/s. Within of the Sun there are 315 known stars in 227 systems, as of 2000, including 163 single stars. It is estimated that a further 130 systems within this range have not yet been identified. Out to , there may be up to 7,500 stars, of which around 2,600 are known. The number of substellar objects in that volume are expected to be comparable to the number of stars. Of the 50 Nearest stars, nearest stellar systems within 17 light-years from Earth (the closest being the red dwarf Proxima Centauri at approximately 4.2 light-years), the Sun ranks fourth in mass. The Gaia Catalogue of Nearby Stars, all within 100 parsecs, contains 331,312 stars and is thought to include at least 92% of the stars of stellar spectral type M9 or "earlier" (i.e. hotter).


Theoretical problems


Coronal heating problem

The temperature of the photosphere is approximately 6,000 K, whereas the temperature of the corona reaches . The high temperature of the corona shows that it is heated by something other than direct heat conduction from the photosphere. It is thought that the energy necessary to heat the corona is provided by turbulent motion in the convection zone below the photosphere, and two main mechanisms have been proposed to explain coronal heating. The first is wave heating, in which sound, gravitational or magnetohydrodynamic waves are produced by turbulence in the convection zone. These waves travel upward and dissipate in the corona, depositing their energy in the ambient matter in the form of heat. The other is magnetic heating, in which magnetic energy is continuously built up by photospheric motion and released through magnetic reconnection in the form of large solar flares and myriad similar but smaller events—nanoflares. Currently, it is unclear whether waves are an efficient heating mechanism. All waves except Alfvén waves have been found to dissipate or refract before reaching the corona. In addition, Alfvén waves do not easily dissipate in the corona. Current research focus has therefore shifted towards flare heating mechanisms.


Faint young Sun problem

Theoretical models of the Sun's development suggest that 3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago, during the Archean, Archean eon, the Sun was only about 75% as bright as it is today. Such a weak star would not have been able to sustain liquid water on Earth's surface, and thus life should not have been able to develop. However, the geological record demonstrates that Earth has remained at a fairly constant temperature throughout its history and that the young Earth was somewhat warmer than it is today. One theory among scientists is that the atmosphere of the young Earth contained much larger quantities of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane) than are present today, which trapped enough heat to compensate for the smaller amount of solar energy reaching it. However, examination of Archaean sediments appears inconsistent with the hypothesis of high greenhouse concentrations. Instead, the moderate temperature range may be explained by a lower surface albedo brought about by less continental area and the lack of biologically induced cloud condensation nuclei. This would have led to increased absorption of solar energy, thereby compensating for the lower solar output.


Observational history


Early understanding

The Sun has been an object of veneration in many cultures throughout human history. Humanity's most fundamental understanding of the Sun is as the luminous disk in the sky, whose presence above the horizon causes day and whose absence causes night. In many prehistoric and ancient cultures, the Sun was thought to be a solar deity or other supernatural entity. The Sun has played an important part in many world religions, as described in a later section.


Development of scientific understanding

In the early first millennium BC, Babylonian astronomy, Babylonian astronomers observed that the Sun's motion along the ecliptic is not uniform, though they did not know why; it is today known that this is due to the movement of Earth in an elliptic orbit around the Sun, with Earth moving faster when it is nearer to the Sun at perihelion and moving slower when it is farther away at aphelion. One of the first people to offer a scientific or philosophical explanation for the Sun was the Ancient Greece, Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. He reasoned that it was not the chariot of Helios, but instead a giant flaming ball of metal even larger than the land of the Peloponnese, Peloponnesus and that the Moon reflected the light of the Sun. For teaching this heresy, he was imprisoned by the authorities and capital punishment, sentenced to death, though he was later released through the intervention of Pericles. Eratosthenes estimated the distance between Earth and the Sun in the 3rd century BC as "of stadia myriads 400 and 80000", the translation of which is ambiguous, implying either 4,080,000 Stadion (unit), stadia (755,000 km) or 804,000,000 stadia (148 to 153 million kilometers or 0.99 to 1.02 AU); the latter value is correct to within a few percent. In the 1st century AD, Ptolemy estimated the distance as 1,210 times Earth radius, the radius of Earth, approximately . The theory that the Sun is the center around which the planets orbit was first proposed by the ancient Greek Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC, and later adopted by Seleucus of Seleucia (see Heliocentrism). This view was developed in a more detailed mathematical model of a heliocentric system in the 16th century by Nicolaus Copernicus. Observations of sunspots were recorded during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) by Chinese astronomy, Chinese astronomers, who maintained records of these observations for centuries. Averroes also provided a description of sunspots in the 12th century. The invention of the telescope in the early 17th century permitted detailed observations of sunspots by Thomas Harriot, Galileo Galilei and other astronomers. Galileo posited that sunspots were on the surface of the Sun rather than small objects passing between Earth and the Sun. Astronomy in medieval Islam, Arabic astronomical contributions include Al-Battani's discovery that the direction of the Sun's apogee (the place in the Sun's orbit against the fixed stars where it seems to be moving slowest) is changing. (In modern heliocentric terms, this is caused by a gradual motion of the aphelion of the ''Earth's'' orbit). Ibn Yunus observed more than 10,000 entries for the Sun's position for many years using a large astrolabe. From an observation of a transit of Venus in 1032, the Persian astronomer and polymath Avicenna, Ibn Sina concluded that Venus is closer to Earth than the Sun. In 1672 Giovanni Cassini and Jean Richer determined the distance to Mars and were thereby able to calculate the distance to the Sun. In 1666, Isaac Newton observed the Sun's light using a prism (optics), prism, and showed that it is made up of light of many colors. In 1800, William Herschel discovered
infrared Infrared (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with wavelengths longer than those of Light, visible light. It is therefore invisible to the human eye. IR is generally understood to encompass wavelengths from ...

infrared
radiation beyond the red part of the solar spectrum. The 19th century saw advancement in spectroscopic studies of the Sun; Joseph von Fraunhofer recorded more than 600 absorption lines in the spectrum, the strongest of which are still often referred to as Fraunhofer lines. In the early years of the modern scientific era, the source of the Sun's energy was a significant puzzle. Lord Kelvin suggested that the Sun is a gradually cooling liquid body that is radiating an internal store of heat. Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz then proposed a Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism, gravitational contraction mechanism to explain the energy output, but the resulting age estimate was only 20 million years, well short of the time span of at least 300 million years suggested by some geological discoveries of that time. In 1890 Joseph Norman Lockyer, Joseph Lockyer, who discovered helium in the solar spectrum, proposed a meteoritic hypothesis for the formation and evolution of the Sun. Not until 1904 was a documented solution offered. Ernest Rutherford suggested that the Sun's output could be maintained by an internal source of heat, and suggested radioactive decay as the source. However, it would be Albert Einstein who would provide the essential clue to the source of the Sun's energy output with his mass–energy equivalence relation . In 1920, Sir Arthur Eddington proposed that the pressures and temperatures at the core of the Sun could produce a nuclear fusion reaction that merged hydrogen (protons) into helium nuclei, resulting in a production of energy from the net change in mass. The preponderance of hydrogen in the Sun was confirmed in 1925 by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Cecilia Payne using the ionization theory developed by Meghnad Saha. The theoretical concept of fusion was developed in the 1930s by the astrophysicists Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Hans Bethe. Hans Bethe calculated the details of the two main energy-producing nuclear reactions that power the Sun. In 1957, Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, William Alfred Fowler, William Fowler and Fred Hoyle showed that most of the elements in the universe have been nucleosynthesis, synthesized by nuclear reactions inside stars, some like the Sun.


Solar space missions

The first satellites designed for long term observation of the Sun from interplanetary space were NASA's Pioneer program, Pioneers 6, 7, 8 and 9, which were launched between 1959 and 1968. These probes orbited the Sun at a distance similar to that of Earth, and made the first detailed measurements of the solar wind and the solar magnetic field. Pioneer 9 operated for a particularly long time, transmitting data until May 1983. In the 1970s, two Helios probes, Helios spacecraft and the Skylab Apollo Telescope Mount provided scientists with significant new data on solar wind and the solar corona. The Helios 1 and 2 probes were U.S.–German collaborations that studied the solar wind from an orbit carrying the spacecraft inside Mercury's orbit at perihelion. The Skylab space station, launched by NASA in 1973, included a solar observatory module called the Apollo Telescope Mount that was operated by astronauts resident on the station. Skylab made the first time-resolved observations of the solar transition region and of ultraviolet emissions from the solar corona. Discoveries included the first observations of coronal mass ejections, then called "coronal transients", and of coronal holes, now known to be intimately associated with the solar wind. In 1980, the Solar Maximum Mission was launched by NASA. This spacecraft was designed to observe gamma rays, X-rays and Ultraviolet, UV radiation from solar flares during a time of high solar activity and #External links, solar luminosity. Just a few months after launch, however, an electronics failure caused the probe to go into standby mode, and it spent the next three years in this inactive state. In 1984 Space Shuttle Challenger, Space Shuttle ''Challenger'' mission STS-41C retrieved the satellite and repaired its electronics before re-releasing it into orbit. The Solar Maximum Mission subsequently acquired thousands of images of the solar corona before Atmospheric reentry, re-entering Earth's atmosphere in June 1989. Launched in 1991, Japan's Yohkoh (''Sunbeam'') satellite observed solar flares at X-ray wavelengths. Mission data allowed scientists to identify several different types of flares and demonstrated that the corona away from regions of peak activity was much more dynamic and active than had previously been supposed. Yohkoh observed an entire solar cycle but went into standby mode when an annular eclipse in 2001 caused it to lose its lock on the Sun. It was destroyed by atmospheric re-entry in 2005. One of the most important solar missions to date has been the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, jointly built by the European Space Agency and NASA and launched on 2 December 1995. Originally intended to serve a two-year mission, a mission extension through 2012 was approved in October 2009. It has proven so useful that a follow-on mission, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), was launched in February 2010. Situated at the Lagrangian point between Earth and the Sun (at which the gravitational pull from both is equal), SOHO has provided a constant view of the Sun at many wavelengths since its launch. Besides its direct solar observation, SOHO has enabled the discovery of a large number of comets, mostly tiny sungrazing comets that incinerate as they pass the Sun. All these satellites have observed the Sun from the plane of the ecliptic, and so have only observed its equatorial regions in detail. The Ulysses probe, ''Ulysses'' probe was launched in 1990 to study the Sun's polar regions. It first traveled to Jupiter, to "slingshot" into an orbit that would take it far above the plane of the ecliptic. Once ''Ulysses'' was in its scheduled orbit, it began observing the solar wind and magnetic field strength at high solar latitudes, finding that the solar wind from high latitudes was moving at about 750 km/s, which was slower than expected, and that there were large magnetic waves emerging from high latitudes that scattered galactic cosmic rays. Elemental abundances in the photosphere are well known from astronomical spectroscopy, spectroscopic studies, but the composition of the interior of the Sun is more poorly understood. A solar wind sample return mission, ''Genesis (spacecraft), Genesis'', was designed to allow astronomers to directly measure the composition of solar material. The STEREO, Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission was launched in October 2006. Two identical spacecraft were launched into orbits that cause them to (respectively) pull further ahead of and fall gradually behind Earth. This enables stereoscopic imaging of the Sun and solar phenomena, such as coronal mass ejections. The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket and will reach a perigee of in 2025, making it the closest-orbiting manmade satellite as the first spacecraft to fly low into the solar corona. The Indian Space Research Organisation has scheduled the launch of a satellite named ''Aditya (spacecraft), Aditya'' for mid 2020. Its main instrument will be a coronagraph for studying the dynamics of the solar corona.


Observation and effects

The brightness of the Sun can cause pain from looking at it with the naked eye; however, doing so for brief periods is not hazardous for normal non-dilated eyes. Looking directly at the Sun (sungazing) causes phosphene visual artifacts and temporary partial blindness. It also delivers about 4 milliwatts of sunlight to the retina, slightly heating it and potentially causing damage in eyes that cannot respond properly to the brightness. UV exposure gradually yellows the lens of the eye over a period of years, and is thought to contribute to the formation of cataracts, but this depends on general exposure to solar UV, and not whether one looks directly at the Sun. Long-duration viewing of the direct Sun with the naked eye can begin to cause UV-induced, sunburn-like lesions on the retina after about 100 seconds, particularly under conditions where the UV light from the Sun is intense and well focused; conditions are worsened by young eyes or new lens implants (which admit more UV than aging natural eyes), Sun angles near the zenith, and observing locations at high altitude. Viewing the Sun through light-concentrating optics such as binoculars may result in permanent damage to the retina without an appropriate filter that blocks UV and substantially dims the sunlight. When using an attenuating filter to view the Sun, the viewer is cautioned to use a filter specifically designed for that use. Some improvised filters that pass UV or infrared, IR rays, can actually harm the eye at high brightness levels. Herschel wedges, also called Solar Diagonals, are effective and inexpensive for small telescopes. The sunlight that is destined for the eyepiece is reflected from an unsilvered surface of a piece of glass. Only a very small fraction of the incident light is reflected. The rest passes through the glass and leaves the instrument. If the glass breaks because of the heat, no light at all is reflected, making the device fail-safe. Simple filters made of darkened glass allow the full intensity of sunlight to pass through if they break, endangering the observer's eyesight. Unfiltered binoculars can deliver hundreds of times as much energy as using the naked eye, possibly causing immediate damage. It is claimed that even brief glances at the midday Sun through an unfiltered telescope can cause permanent damage. Partial solar eclipses are hazardous to view because the eye's pupil is not adapted to the unusually high visual contrast: the pupil dilates according to the total amount of light in the field of view, ''not'' by the brightest object in the field. During partial eclipses, most sunlight is blocked by the Moon passing in front of the Sun, but the uncovered parts of the photosphere have the same surface brightness as during a normal day. In the overall gloom, the pupil expands from ~2 mm to ~6 mm, and each retinal cell exposed to the solar image receives up to ten times more light than it would looking at the non-eclipsed Sun. This can damage or kill those cells, resulting in small permanent blind spots for the viewer. The hazard is insidious for inexperienced observers and for children because there is no perception of pain: it is not immediately obvious that one's vision is being destroyed. During sunrise and sunset, sunlight is attenuated because of Rayleigh scattering and Mie theory, Mie scattering from a particularly long passage through Earth's atmosphere, and the Sun is sometimes faint enough to be viewed comfortably with the naked eye or safely with optics (provided there is no risk of bright sunlight suddenly appearing through a break between clouds). Hazy conditions, atmospheric dust, and high humidity contribute to this atmospheric attenuation. An optical phenomenon, known as a green flash, can sometimes be seen shortly after sunset or before sunrise. The flash is caused by light from the Sun just below the horizon being refraction, bent (usually through a temperature inversion) towards the observer. Light of shorter wavelengths (violet, blue, green) is bent more than that of longer wavelengths (yellow, orange, red) but the violet and blue light is Rayleigh scattering, scattered more, leaving light that is perceived as green. Ultraviolet light from the Sun has antiseptic properties and can be used to sanitize tools and water. It also causes sunburn, and has other biological effects such as the production of vitamin D and sun tanning. It is also the main cause of skin cancer. Ultraviolet light is strongly attenuated by Earth's ozone layer, so that the amount of UV varies greatly with latitude and has been partially responsible for many biological adaptations, including variations in human skin color in different regions of the Earth.


Planetary system

The Sun has eight known planets. This includes four terrestrial planets (
Mercury Mercury usually refers to: * Mercury (planet) Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman g ...

Mercury
,
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...

Venus
,
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
, and
Mars Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury (planet), Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Mars (mythology), Roman god of war and is often referred to ...

Mars
), two gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn), and two ice giants (Uranus and Neptune). The Solar System also has at least five dwarf planets, an asteroid belt, numerous comets, and a large number of icy bodies which lie beyond the orbit of Neptune.


Religious aspects

Solar deities play a major role in many world religions and mythologies. Sun worship, Worship of the Sun was central to civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians, the Inca of South America and the Aztecs of what is now Mexico. In religions such as Hinduism, the Sun is still considered a god. Many ancient monuments were constructed with solar phenomena in mind; for example, stone megaliths accurately mark the summer or winter solstice (some of the most prominent megaliths are located in Nabta Playa, Egypt; Mnajdra, Malta and at Stonehenge, England); Newgrange, a prehistoric human-built mount in Ireland, was designed to detect the winter solstice; the pyramid of El Castillo, Chichen Itza, El Castillo at Chichén Itzá in Mexico is designed to cast shadows in the shape of serpents climbing the pyramid at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The ancient Sumerians believed that the Sun was Utu, the god of justice and twin brother of Inanna, the Queen of Heaven (antiquity), Queen of Heaven, who was identified as the planet Venus. Later, Utu was identified with the East Semitic god Shamash. Utu was regarded as a helper-deity, who aided those in distress, and, in iconography, he is usually portrayed with a long beard and clutching a saw, which represented his role as the dispenser of justice. From at least the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Sun was worshipped as the Ra, god Ra, portrayed as a falcon-headed divinity surmounted by the solar disk, and surrounded by a serpent. In the New Kingdom of Egypt, New Empire period, the Sun became identified with the dung beetle, whose spherical ball of dung was identified with the Sun. In the form of the sun disc Aten, the Sun had a brief resurgence during the Amarna Period when it again became the preeminent, if not only, divinity for the Pharaoh Akhenaton. The Egyptians portrayed the god Ra as being carried across the sky in a solar barque, accompanied by lesser gods, and to the Greeks, he was Helios, carried by a chariot drawn by fiery horses. From the reign of Elagabalus in the Decline of the Roman Empire, late Roman Empire the Sun's birthday was a holiday celebrated as Sol Invictus (literally "Unconquered Sun") soon after the winter solstice, which may have been an antecedent to Christmas. Regarding the fixed stars, the Sun appears from Earth to revolve once a year along the ecliptic through the zodiac, and so Greek astronomers categorized it as one of the seven classical planets, planets (Greek ''planetes'', "wanderer"); the naming of the Names of the days of the week, days of the weeks after the seven planets dates to the Roman Empire, Roman era. In Proto-Indo-European religion, the Sun was personified as the goddess Sun deity, ''*Seh2ul''. Derivatives of this goddess in Indo-European languages include the
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
''Sól (sun), Sól'', Sanskrit ''Surya'', Gaulish language, Gaulish ''Sulis'', Lithuanian language, Lithuanian ''Saulė'', and Slavic languages, Slavic ''Solntse''. In ancient Greek religion, the sun deity was the male god Helios, who in later times was syncretism, syncretized with Apollo. In the Bible, mentions the "Sun of Righteousness" (sometimes translated as the "Sun of Justice"), which some Christianity, Christians have interpreted as a reference to the Messiah (Christ). In ancient Roman culture,
Sunday Sunday is the day of the week between Saturday and Monday. In most Western countries, Sunday is a day of rest and a part of the Workweek and weekend, weekend, whereas in much of the rest of the world, it is considered the first day of the week. ...

Sunday
was the day of the sun god. It was adopted as the Sabbath day by Christians who did not have a Jewish background. The symbol of light was a pagan device adopted by Christians, and perhaps the most important one that did not come from Jewish traditions. In paganism, the Sun was a source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine as they prayed. The celebration of the winter solstice (which influenced Christmas) was part of the Roman cult of the unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus). Christian churches were built with an orientation so that the congregation faced toward the sunrise in the East. Tonatiuh, the Aztec god of the sun, was usually depicted holding arrows and a shield and was closely associated with the practice of human sacrifice. The sun goddess Amaterasu is the most important deity in the Shinto religion, and she is believed to be the direct ancestor of all List of Emperors of Japan, Japanese emperors.


See also

* Advanced Composition Explorer * Analemma * Antisolar point * List of brightest stars * Midnight sun * * Sun path * Sun-Earth Day * Sungazing * Timeline of the far future


Notes


References


Further reading

* * *


External links


Nasa SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite

National Solar Observatory

Astronomy Cast: The Sun


(''The Boston Globe'')
Satellite observations of solar luminosity

Sun, Trek, an educational website about the Sun

The Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope, SST


(University of Glamorgan)
Animation – The Future of the Sun


nbsp;– NASA – images, link to report on Science
Sun in Ultra High Definition
NASA 11 January 2015
Album
of images and videos by Seán Doran, based on Solar Dynamics Observatory, SDO imagery
NASA 5-year timelapse video of the Sun

NASA 10-year timelapse video of the Sun
{{Authority control Sun, Articles containing video clips Astronomical objects known since antiquity G-type main-sequence stars Light sources Plasma physics Space plasmas Stars with proper names, Sun