Thursday, 8 December 2011

SUN

Our Sun is not unique in the universe. It is a common middle-sized yellow star which scientists have named Sol, after the ancient Roman name. This is why our system of planets is called the Solar System. There are trillions of other stars in the universe just like it. Many of these stars have their own systems of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

The Sun was born in a vast cloud of gas and dust around 5 billion years ago. Indeed, these vast nebulae are the birth places of all stars. Over a period of many millions of years, this gas and dust began to fall into a common center under the force of its own gravity.

At the center, an ever growing body of mass was forming. As the matter fell inward, it generated a tremendous amount of heat and pressure. As it grew, the baby Sun became hotter and hotter. Eventually, when it reached a temperature of around 1 million degrees, its core ignited, causing it to begin nuclear fusion.

When this happened, the Sun began producing its own light, heat, and energy.
What is Thermonuclear Fusion?Thermonuclear fusion is the process in which a star produce its light, heat, and energy. This happens at the core of the star. The core is superheated to millions of degrees. This heat travels towards the surface and radiates out into the universe. Through this thermonuclear process, stars "burn" a fuel known as hydrogen. The result is that they create another type of fuel known as helium. However, stars do not burn in the same way that a fire does, because stars are not on fire.




Sun Spots
We don't often think of the Sun as having cooler areas on its surface. The Sun is far too hot for an astronaut to ever visit, but there are areas which are slightly cooler than others. These areas are known as sun spots. Sun spots are still very hot. However, because they are slightly cooler than the rest of the surface of the Sun, they appear slightly darker in color. The gravitational forces in Sun spots are also stronger than the other hotter areas. Of course, you cannot look directly at the Sun to see these spots because you would damage your eyes. Astronomers have to use special telescopes with filters and other instruments to be able to see the cooler spots on the surface of the Sun.

Sun spots come and go on a regular basis. At times, there are very few, if any sun spots. At other times there are far more. They generally increase in intensity and then decrease over a period of 11 years. This 11 year cycle is known as the Saros Cycle.

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