This is the first of a new feature where I’m going to be using the news and pictures I’ve been collecting to create a weekly post exploring the solar system a piece at a time. I’m going to start at the beginning, move out and then go all random after that depending on what I decide to put in.
As you all saw last week I’ve started a little feature on the solar system I deliberately decided to start with Mercury last week as it coincided with Mercury’s transition of the sun. Which slips us nicely into the sun – our own shining little corner of the galaxy. Our Sun is a star, a small and quite calm, quiet star. It has storms and changes that are significant but tiny compare to other stars in our galaxy. This is good for us on Earth as it makes living with our nearest stellar neighbour tolerable and therefore it’s activity promotes life on Earth.
- Diameter: 695,700km (about 109 x Earth’s)
- Mass: 330,000 x Earth (The sun makes up for 99.86% of the mass of the solar system)
- The sun is made up of about 75% Hydrogen, the rest is mostly Helium with the rest made up of heavier elements like Oxygen, Carbon and Iron.
- The Sun orbits the galaxy at a speed of 220km/sec.
The picture above shows the scale of the sun to the planets, it is phemonenally HUGE! To scare you even more, the sun burs 600 million tons of hydrogen PER SECOND. Per second?!!?
The real surprising thing about this fact is that it’s a immense amount of fuel, but it’s very efficient as the Earth (tiny though it is is many times greater than this mass – so the sun is very efficient and will not run out of fuel for a long, long time. But when it does, it’s predicted to swell and become a red giant. It will grow, probably swallowing the Earth and warming the outer planets, making moons like Europa and Titan possibly suitable for humanoid or advanced lifeforms.
Despite the size of our local star, it is tiny compare to many other stars in our galaxy. Alpha Centauri is the closest star to us apart from the sun and it is not visible without a telescope, despite being brighter than the sun. So, our sun isn’t a bight and shining beacon in our galaxy. Knowing this makes an oberserver very aware that the stars we see are far bigger and brighter than our sun and also, that there is far more in our galaxy than we can see. Our size and insignificance is mind blowing.
Our sun also has storms, storms that are many time bigger than the Earth that would burn away everything in a second if we were close enough. These storms radiate from the spots which can be spotted on the sun fairly easily, these too are many times the size of the Earth.
The sun is an ever changing ball of self sustaining energy and yet there is so much more to it than being a bright circle in the sky.
Viewing the sun
As the sun is so bright it’s not a good idea to look right at it or though a telescope. This great little one pager shows how it should be done:
There’s a method for everyone to use.
I’m going to be using Gustav Holst’s the planets as part of the artistic inspiration. Now as the sun isn’t a planet, Holst did not compose a piece on the sun. But in every culture of society we’re inspired by the sun, there are numerous sun gods that have been devised.
Also think about Art, how many pictures and paintings include the sun rising or setting, how many children’s pictures have a bright yellow circle in the top corner and how often do we wish for warm summer sun in the depths of winter.
I hope you my bloggies are enjoying this feature.