Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sol: Our Glorious Sun

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April 8, 2015
NASA Gives Green Light for APL to Begin Building Solar Probe Plus
The Solar Probe Plus Mission which will fly closer to the Sun than any spacecraft has before  reached a major milestone this month when it successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR).
The movie on the left is from Goddard Space Observatory and the movie on the right is from Nasa. Both are taken from the new probes sent to the Sun! Both have several light spectrum views (hence the colors, purple is obviously ultraviolet and red in obviously infrared, etc...) I couldn't download them so I screen recorded them with fraps!-
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...
Size-- You already know that the Earth is big, but that most planets and our Sun are all a lot bigger, but how big is big anyway? Or, how big is big compared to Earth? Well, the Sun is so massive that you could take 333,000 Earth's and stuff them all inside the Sun. Its circumference alone is about 109 times that of Earth. Honestly, when numbers get this gigantic they might as well be in another language. Who can look at 109 Earth's and conceptualize the size? Most people couldn't even imagine flying around the Earth once, let alone flying around 109 Earths. So let's say it like this....the Earth has a circumference of 24,901.55 miles, the exact number isn't important since this is to help you visualize. Now picture that times almost 109, give or take, which is 2,713,406 miles. This method is sometimes a little easier since you can picture the Earth alone, now just try to picture more and more Earth's surrounding it until eventually you really can't accurately imagine more in your head. This is how scientists conceptualize size and mass, which are not always what they seem, since something can big big yet have very little mass, so they just equate that mass to Earth rather than wasting time trying to wrap their feeble, mushy brains around numbers. They love to compare everything relative to another more familiar object. You really cannot picture 109 Earths, so just picture playing with 109 marbles on the floor that look like Earth, kinda like in the movie Men In Black. That's a lot of marbles! Better now? Now go watch Men In Black!
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 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
mid-sized star!!
Sol is traveling inside our Milky Way galaxy at 492,100 mph, meanwhile Earth travels only around 66,610 mph. Strange how the entire Solar System as a whole all move at varying speeds inside a 100,000 light year-sized galaxy, yet all stick together perfectly and enables Earth to continue supporting life...all of this for Earth's sake. Imagine this, our galaxy is over 587,862,537,318,360,000 miles in diameter and yet everything within moves synchronously at speeds in excesses of 500,000 mph and as low as 60,000 mph and also in opposite directions and at varying orbital shapes around the Sun (oval, circle, etc)... makes you think, right? It should, because even if poor lonely Pluto suddenly flew away out of the Sun's orbit, Earth and all the other planets would be doomed one-by-one to lose their proper orbits around the Sun, sending the distant planets farther away from the Sun however the closer planets like Earth, the Moon and Mars would hurdle into the Sun to die in fire.
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..." (
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

Sun=big :D
Gravity-- The best topic for any astronomer is gravity. Gravity is capable of keeping you on Earth and it's equally capable of crushing you into a gut-strewn, bloody mess of nastiness. Which is half the fun! Who wants to feel the gravity of our Sun?? Actually, you do every day. That's right, for even though we are about 93 million miles away, the only thing that keeps the Earth and our 621,371,192,000,000,000 mile long solar system from sling-shotting into space forever and ever is the Sun. The Sun easily holds all the planets in its massive orbit at just the right distance. In the picture to the right you can see part of the Sun in relation to all the other planets in our system, and beyond a shadow of doubt it should be painfully obvious just how big the Sun is compared to the rest of the planets. There's a tiny spec on the picture...that's Earth! Large and in charge, but it's not the size the counts!!
So gravity is like this: picture outer space being flat like a blanket on a soft bed. Now picture placing a golf ball on that blanket, that dent in the blanket is gravity, because space is a physical property, it can be bent, it's like a container if it were made of elastic. Many people don't realize that space is like this. So the bigger the mass of the object (not size, mass) the bigger the dent. Now remember that mass and size are not really the same, since some stars and black holes are very small but have super-density, and some black holes even have mega-density but almost no mass. Anyway, don't get too hung up on this, it's another subject for another time. So next time you see the Sun, you now know that it is bending space due to its gravity and that dent in space pulls us and other objects toward it! That "blanket" is space, the "golf balls" are our planets which roll around the Sun which would be like a basketball in the center of the blanket. If you do this, you'll actually see the golf balls roll into the basketball because of the dent. This dent is the disturbance in space which we call gravity. It's that simple.

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