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The Sun

The Sun
Source: NASA

What is the Sun like?

The Sun is a yellow dwarf star at the center of our Solar System. All the planets of the Solar System orbit around the Sun. The Sun and the Solar System orbit around the center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way.

Although the Sun is a relatively small star in the universe, it is huge in relation to our solar system. Even with massive gas planets like Jupiter and Saturn, the Sun contains 99.8% of all the mass in the solar system.

The Sun is made up of superheated hydrogen and helium gas. Hydrogen makes up about 74% of the mass of the Sun. At the center of the Sun, hydrogen atoms, under intense pressure from gravity, undergo a process called nuclear fusion and get converted into helium atoms. The process of nuclear fusion generates a tremendous amount of heat causing radiation and eventually the sunlight that reaches the Earth.

Cross Section of the Inside of the Sun
Cross Section of the Sun. Source: NASA
The Sun is the main source of energy in the Solar System and life on Earth. Plants use photosynthesis in order to harness energy from the Sun. Even energy that we get from fossil fuels like oil originally came from the Sun. We can also use solar cells to convert energy from the Sun directly into electricity.

Eruption from Sun
An eruption from the surface of the Sun. Source NASA.
How do we know about the Sun?

The Sun has been studied by humans, scientists, and astronomers for as long as people have been around. In the 16th and 17th centuries astronomers like Galileo and Isaac Newton began to study the Sun and learned that planets orbit the Sun due to gravity. In the early 1900's Albert Einstein used the formula E=MC^2 to explain how the Sun generated so much energy. In 1920 Arthur Eddington explained how the intense pressures at the center of the Sun could produce nuclear fusion and, in turn, great amounts of heat and energy. Since 1959 many space missions have observed and studied the Sun, its solar winds, and sun spots to give us more and more information about the Sun and this giant center of the Solar System.

Sunrise over the Space Station
The Sun as seen from the International Space Station.
Source NASA.
Interesting Facts About the Sun Activities

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More Astronomy Subjects

The Sun and Planets
Solar System

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Meteors and Comets
Sunspots and Solar Wind
Solar and Lunar Eclipse

Space Exploration Timeline
Space Race
Nuclear Fusion
Astronomy Glossary

Science >> Physics >> Astronomy

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