No, it doesn't really look like the logo for Kellogg's Raisin Bran.
The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At temperatures of millions of degrees.
Describe The Sun
Alright, I'll do it for you. The Sun is big, glowing, hot (approx. 5750 K. on the surface on average), basically a huge globe of plasma composed mostly of burning hydrogen and helium. Yeah, just like every star
you see. Altogether, it's nothing special, just a common G-class star, white (not yellow
, though atmospheric scattering of blue light may make it seem so) and rather smallnote
, on the outer third of the Galaxy on the Orion arm or in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm
. It's just a little bit (on the cosmological time scale) older than Earth itself. It is currently around 5 billion years old, and it has enough fuel for another 5 billion. On the end of its life cycle, it will inflate to a red giantnote
, consuming Mercury, Venus and probably Earth. Mars
gets off with a sunburn, and Titan
might thaw out and develop its own life... at least until the sun collapses into an Earth-sized white dwarf and slowly cools to the ambient temperature of the universe over the next trillions of years
Still, for us humans
it holds a very huge significance and thus it's featured quite frequently in fiction as it is the closest star to us. In fact, the Insignificant Little Blue Planet
called Earth is orbiting around it. Yeah, we're orbiting in a roughly circular shape with a radius of 8.3 light minutes and the Sun in the center. And yes, you see it every (cloudless) day (unless you are living on a latitude greater than 66.7° North or South), so unless you are literally
living under a rock and never leave, you must be kind of familiar with it.
As were people in the ancient times. The Sun has been revered as a deity, or as an object of divine origins by many religions. Helios (or Apollo/Apollon, as his better known name) was the Greek god
of the Sun. The ancient Egyptians
saw it originally as the Pharaoh's soul; later it was associated with Ra and Horus
. And this is only a very small part of the great number of solar deities
found in cultures. In such cultures, the Sun is often contrasted with The Moon
Despite being made of ionized gas, the tremendous pressure in its interior squeezes the core into a very dense ball, bringing the sun's average density up above that of liquid water. As one astronomy professior said, if you put the sun in a bucket of water it'll sink. The core is less than a quarter of the sun's diameter, but it exists at over 100 billion
times sea level pressure, up to 150 times the density of liquid water at its center note
, and a temperature of 15 million Kelvins (27 million degrees Fahrenheit). The only thing keeping the sun from collapsing in on itself still further is the nuclear fusion reaction going on in its core — so much heat is produced that the radiation literally lifts up the outer layers against their own weight. Nevertheless, when compared to even the largest planets in the solar system, the sun is freakin' huge.
It's over a hundred times bigger across than the Earth, and weighs over 300,000 times as much. In fact, all of the planets, asteroids, and comets in the solar system combined
would have less than 1% of the sun's mass. If the sun had a solid surface — which it doesn't — you'd experience 28 times Earth's surface gravity if you stood on it.
As said above, its core will run outta gas some 5 billion years from now. When this happens, the sun will inflate a lotnote
and consume at least some of the inner planets - likely including Earth, causing a Class 5 or Class X apocalypse
. This inflation will take place in the blink of an eye in geological terms, but will be very gradual by human-lifetime standards: it may take anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 years for the sun to grow from its end-of-main-sequence normal size to its full red-giant glory.note
After a million or so years in this red giant phase, it will shrink again, then expand a second time as its core fuses helium into carbon, then finally shed its outer layers in a breathtaking display known as a "planetary nebula."note
What will remain afterward is the tiny, exposed core of the sun, now shrunk to a super-densenote
white dwarf the size of the Earth, slowly cooling to a black dwarf over the next quadrillion years.
But we might not have that long to wait before things get ugly. According to current models of stellar evolution, in a paltry one
billion years the sun will brighten enough that Earth's oceans will evaporate. We won't be around then, though — either because Science Marches On
and we will be on planets far away, or because we will kill ourselves
Note: some fictional extraterrestrial cultures will worship their central star as our ancient cultures worshiped the Sun. While it is definitely not the same star, for its significance for the given aliens it falls into this category.
Commonly referred to as Sol in Speculative Fiction
as in "Navigator, set a course for the Sol System
For the home of the Page Three Stunna
, see British Newspapers