Facts about the Sun

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This diagram introduces the Sun, the star at the centre of our solar system. It lists some useful facts that help explain why it is so important in our lives.


Remember that:

  • The sun is unlike anything else in our experience. Its age, size, temperature are all on a scale apart from life on planet Earth.
  • It explodes with the force of a billion one-megaton nuclear bombs every single second of every single day.
  • Without the energy produced by the sun, life as we know it would not be possible.

Description

Facts about the Sun

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About the diagram

About the diagram
  • This diagram introduces the Sun, the star at the centre of our solar system. It lists some useful facts that help explain why it is so important in our lives.
Remember that:
  • The sun is unlike anything else in our experience. Its age, size, and temperature are all on a scale apart from our own lives on planet Earth.
  • It explodes with the force of a billion one-megaton nuclear bombs every single second of every single day.
  • Without the energy produced by the sun, life as we know it would not be possible.

Some key terms

Electromagnetic radiation refers to the transfer of all forms of radiation through space by electromagnetic waves.

  • Electromagnetic radiation includes gamma rays, ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR), X-rays, and radio waves, as well as visible light.
  • Detached from its source, electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation), is transported by electromagnetic waves (or their quanta, photons) and propagates through empty space at the speed of light.
  • Man-made technologies that produce electromagnetic radiation include radio and TV transmitters, radar, MRI scanners, microwave ovens, computer screens, mobile phones, all types of lights and lamps, electric blankets, electric bar heaters, lasers and x-ray machines.

Sunlight is light emitted by the Sun and is also called daylight or visible light.

Light is electromagnetic radiation (radiant energy), which, detached from its source, is transported by electromagnetic waves (or their quanta, photons) and propagates through space. Even if humans had never evolved, electromagnetic radiation would have been emitted by stars since the formation of the first galaxies over 13 billion years ago.

  • Simply stated, light is energy. Light is the way energy travels through space.
  • Whilst the term light can be used to refer to the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum, visible light refers to the small range of wavelengths that our eyes are tuned to.
  • The term light can be used in three different ways:
  • Light can be used to mean the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves, through visible light to gamma rays. When this meaning is intended, the terms radiant energy or photon energy are placed in brackets after the term light in this resource.
  • Light can be used to mean the range of wavelengths and frequencies that can be detected by the human eye. A better term is visible light which refers to the wavelengths that correspond with the colours between red and violet, the visible spectrum.
  • Light can also be used to mean the range of wavelengths and frequencies between infra-red and ultra-violet. This usage is sometimes useful because the outer limits of the visible spectrum can differ under different lighting conditions and for different individuals.

Thermonuclear fusion involves atoms fusing together. Thermonuclear fusion requires immense pressure and heat.

  • There are two forms of thermonuclear fusion:
    • Uncontrolled fusion, in which the resulting energy is released in an uncontrolled way, as it is in thermonuclear weapons (“hydrogen bombs”) and in most stars.
    • Controlled fusion, where the reaction takes place in an environment allowing some or all of the energy released to be harnessed for constructive purposes.

Solar radiation is the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun.

  • Electromagnetic radiation is a type of energy that is commonly known as light. Detached from its source, it is transported by electromagnetic waves (or by their quanta, particles called photons) and propagates through space.
  • Electromagnetic radiation includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.
  • Electromagnetic radiation is sometimes called EM radiation or electromagnetic radiant energy (EMR).
  • All forms of electromagnetic radiation can be described in terms of both waves or particles.
  • All forms of electromagnetic radiation travel at 299,792 kilometres per second in a vacuum.

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