The Sun, known also as Sol, is our own star. It's ours, yet compared to all the things you own and love every day, can you say you know much about the star that keeps you alive every day? Without the Sun the Earth would be an ice cube! Well, I doubt you know anything much except it burns....which is wrong! The Sun does not burn. So, now that you probably realize just how little you do know about the Sun, you should read these few, simple to understand paragraphs. So prepare to be fascinated, because this warm star that lets us live our lives and gives you that sexy tan every summer is much more than you might think it is.
|About 92,960,000 miles from Earth, it takes light 8 minutes 19 seconds to reach us. |
Wow, so in order for us humans to be at a comfy temperature, we have to be 93 million miles away? Damn...
Temperature-- Scientists always talk in high-mannered ways. Big words, fancy concepts, and poor explanations. Hey, whatever makes them feel smarter. What's so fascinating about the Sun though, aside from its size...is its temperature. Most people know about absolute zero; it's the temperature where nothing can possibly move-- the total absence of motion and heat, where heat is generated by atoms in motion colliding with each other called kinetic energy, which simply means atoms bounce around off other atoms and cause friction heat. When these atoms get hot enough, sometimes they glow and emit light, called luminosity, which is seen in electrical appliances like stoves turning red hot, candle glow, and light fixtures, etc. Your stove top can make water boil because the electricity being pumped into the metal coils are more-or-less shaking on the atomic level, which causes great heat to the point where the metal can become orange when set on high. Same goes for the Sun! The Sun is super-packed with atoms that are colliding with each other, but unlike your stove, these atoms are crashing into each other at the speed of light and exploding like nuclear bombs. Why? Well, atoms are the Lego's of all the universe. You really shouldn't mess with a kids Lego's, he'll get mad...and explode like an atom bomb, you've totally seen this too. The ensuing temper tantrum for these atoms is called Nuclear Fusion (atoms fusing, which causes a release of energy=explosion) which is multiplied by countless atoms inside the Sun, some say 1.2 x 1057 atoms which is the number 1 plus 57 zeroes in front of it (100000000...... etc), then multiplied by 1.2, which looks like 1.2e+57 on a calculator because it's so huge. It's not that important anyway. Don't think about it too much. What's cool is the energy, not the math.
Heating the Void-- Remember, the atom bomb only split a couple pounds of atoms and reduced an entire city to crumbling junk. The Sun has like a billion trillion million billion billion trillion atoms by comparison. And for you dorks who know big number prefixes, it's like a quattuoromillianovemgoogocentillion atoms, so it's only natural that it explodes and radiates truly unknowable amounts of heat. So now when you look at the Sun, you can picture lotsy-lots of tiny atoms crashing into each other and exploding, giving off heat for millions of miles, sorta like your stove does on a miniature scale (nevermind the atomic differences, it's a similar enough process to use as a primitive analogy). So, when something explodes, it burns, right? Yes, but not the Sun. There is no oxygen silly! Those atoms collide and explode with such intensity that they explode regardless of oxygen. And do keep in mind that outer space is also unbelievably cold, -455°F, which is very close to absolute zero, or to put it simply, so cold nothing can move. And yet Sol heats up this -455°F to over 15,700,000°F, and its dead center may be as hot as 27,000,000°F or hotter, and its photosphere a much cooler but still very hot 9,940°F... who wants a new tan?
No "thing" can withstand this heat. In fact, it's so amazingly hot that the solar probe called Helios 2 was sent to observe it closer than ever before, yet could not get safely travel beyond 26.99 million miles of the Sun, and the Sun itself is 92.96 million miles from Earth.
Speed and Size of Sol: It's so gigantic and hot that over 1/3 of the Sun's distance from Earth still placed the Helios 2 probe far enough into its gravity that the probe sped up from 35,000 mph to over 157,000 mph, making it the fastest man made object ever made even to this day, and still had another 27.01 million miles to go til it'd be close enough to enter geosynchronous orbit around the Sun. But how fast would that probe need to go if it landed and then wanted to leave? It'd need to reach 1,382,256 mph just to leave the Sun's orbit if it had landed on the surface. Suffice it to say that even if we could send a probe close to the Sun, even a million miles away it'd never be able to escape the gravity, let alone the heat.
|Take a pin's head, place it in front of this picture |
and imagine it is earth. That's basically how
big the Sun is compared to earth and it's only a
New Probes: There is now a probe in the making. It's called the Solar Probe Plus satellite. Apparently, this $1,000,000,000 probe set to launch in 2018 will be able to come about 3.7 million miles from the Sun and somehow survive to tell the tale, and could reach up to 432,000 mph "...[The] Solar Probe Plus will arrive at the Sun to begin the first of 24 orbits using flybys of Venus to gradually shrink its distance to the sun. Eventually, it will come as close as about 4 million miles, which is inside the orbit of Mercury and about eight times closer than any previous spacecraft..." (http://news.discovery.com/space/solar-probe-plus-sun-corona.html).
Even when 3,700,000 miles away from the Sun the probe will reach 432,000 mph! Phew. This will totally shatter the previous speed record for fastest man made object ever made.
|A quasar's gravity is utterly insurmountable, being felt quintillions of miles away, holding together entire galaxies spanning tens of thousands and thousands of light years. This picture is fake, but there are plenty of real pictures like this...|
This one just looks cool :D