Here Comes the Sun

November 13, 2019

…and a bunch of fun facts about that glowing yellow orb in the sky.

The sun’s temperature

On average, the sun burns at about 10,000° Fahrenheit. But that’s just on the surface.

The sun’s core

The central core of the sun serves as a furnace, creating heat, light, and energy by constantly fusing hydrogen and helium atoms together, which occurs at a temperature of around 28.3 million degrees. 

Layers of plasma

Surrounding that core are several thick layers of plasma that aren’t as hot as the core, but still get up to a toasty 12.6 million degrees.

Beyond the surface

But past the surface, the sun can generate temperatures hotter than that relatively cool 10K thermometer reading. The solar winds and corona, generated by the sun’s huge magnetic fields, bring the mercury up to 9 million degrees. Of course, then there are those solar flares bursting out randomly from the surface at a very warm 36 million degrees.

Too hot for a manned mission

Obviously, those temperatures preclude a manned mission to the sun — humans tend to get uncomfortable at a relatively chilly 100°F.  A standard protective space suit warn by astronauts protects up to only about 250° and a NASA craft can sustain temperatures of up to 5,000°. As it gets hotter the closer one gets to the sun, that means a spaceship with people in it could get as close as 1.3 million miles to the sun before they burnt to a crisp.

Parker Space Probe

However, we have sent objects into space to get a closer look at the moon. The Parker Space Probe, which left the Earth in August 2018, will eventually get a glimpse at the sun from 4.3 million miles out.

A long way off

That sounds like a big distance, and it is, but consider that the Earth is just under 93 million miles from the sun. Even Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, sits 36 million miles away in space.

The sun’s size

The sun’s size is as staggering as its distance from Earth. It makes up 99.86 percent of the solar system’s entire mass. Put another way, it’s more than 100 times as wide as the Earth and 330,000 times as large.

It’s not yellow or white.

Hot fact coming your way: The sun isn’t yellow, or even white. It’s actually all colors mixed together all at the same time, but our tiny human brains process it as a yellowish-white.

It’s a scientific fact that if you enjoyed this article, you’ll enjoy similar ones in Who Knew? Physics, available now from Portable Press.