Do you ever wonder looking up into the sky; how the Sun, millions of miles away; brightens, warms and sustains our planet. We live in the Goldilocks Zone, far enough the escape the wrath of the colossal celestial object and close enough to make life a possibility. In this quiz, we try to understand how the Sun came to be, how it works and what it will become in the future?
How old is our Sun?
Our Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Its journey began when clouds of dust and gas - called the Nebula - started compressing under its own gravity. As it compressed, the clouds formed a sphere, accumulating all the mass at the centre.
The concentration of mass resulted in increase in pressure and temperature - triggering a nuclear reaction at its core. A fiery giant, the Sun was born. This is also how most stars in the universe are created.
Image: Carina Nebula. NASA
Which is the nearest star to the Sun?
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our Sun at a distance of 4.25 Light Years. The Proxima Centauri is a Red Dwarf star and is among the three stars in the Alpha Centauri star system.
Fun Fact: Scientists are excited about the presence of a planet named Proxima Centauri b that lies within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri b - like earth - is at a perfect distance from the star to support life. Extensive research is underway to find out if this planet can actually sustain living organism.
What is the reaction that produces massive energy in the Sun?
The Sun's energy is a result of nuclear fusion reaction at its core.
Our Sun is a giant ball of gas composed of 70 percent Hydrogen and 28 percent Helium. When two hydrogen atoms collide under high temperature and pressure, they combine to form Helium, releasing massive amounts of energy. This process of collision and fusion is called Nuclear Fusion reaction which is the source of energy for almost all the stars.
600 million tons of Hydrogen is fused into 596 million tons of Helium each second in the Sun. (Source )
Sun has enough Hydrogen for it to last another 5 billion years.
What will happen to the Sun after all the hydrogen is consumed?
After the Sun's core in left with little to no hydrogen, it becomes a Red Giant.
In the Sun, the inward pressure of the gravitational pull is balanced by the outward pressure of the fusion reaction. When hydrogen at the core is insufficient for fusion reaction, the gravitational pull becomes predominant, compressing the sun into a smaller and more denser ball; mainly a Helium core surrounded by a thin layer of hydrogen gas. The compression further triggers the fusion of hydrogen in the outer layer. This reaction causes the outer layer of the Sun to expand to a huge size - making it a Red Giant. In the future when the sun expands, it will gobble up Mercury, Venus and probably earth as well.
Fun fact: Though, the red giant has higher temperatures at its core, the heat spread across the large mass actually makes the surface cooler.
After the Red Giant phase, our Sun will become a _______________?
After the Red Giant phase, the Sun will become a white dwarf.
When the Sun starts to expand during the Red giant phase, the temperature will spread evenly across the surface - making it cooler. But, as the core keeps compressing, the temperature inside increases further. This increase in temperature will facilitate the Helium in the core to fuse into Carbon and other heavy elements. This phase will last a billion year.
After this, when the Helium eventually runs out, the Sun's core temperature starts decreasing. The core, however, will continue shrinking under its own gravity. This process will sustain the expansion of the outer layers, engulfing earth completely. Due to its huge size, the Sun will become quite unstable and the outer layer will break free from the core's gravity- forming a new Nebula. Meanwhile, the core cools down and reduces in size to become a White Dwarf.
What type of star is our Sun currently?
The Sun is a yellow Dwarf or a G-type main sequence star. The main sequence stars are the ones that generate energy from Hydrogen fusion. The stars are classified based on their surface temperature as O, B, A, F, G, K and M. With O being the hottest and M being the coolest.
Fun fact: Though the Sun looks yellow, in fact it is white.
What are the black patches in the image?
The dark patches on the Sun are the Sunspots.
Sunspots are temporary regions on the surface of the sun that are relatively cooler than the rest of the surface, making them appear darker. As a matter of fact, Sunspots are the coolest regions of the Sun.
The sun rotates at different speeds; the equator of the sun rotates faster than the poles. This affects the magnetic lines stretching between the poles, which get twisted and turned in the process. The disturbance to the magnetic lines create an intense magnetic field in certain regions. These high magnetic fields break through the surface of the Sun and allow no heat to pass through them - creating a sunspot.
Funfact: A sunspot decays after a few weeks or months.
What is this bright light on the right?
The bright light is the image is a Solar Flare.
Solar flares are giant radiation explosions erupting for a short amount of time from the sunspots where the magnetic field is high. This occurs when the twisted magnetic lines rearrange, releasing energy in form of radiation. The radiation is both visible like light, and invisible like X-rays and Gamma rays.
Solar flares can be sometimes confused to CME (Coronal Mass Ejections). Though they often occur together, they are entirely different things. CME are more intense and eject solar gas and radiations into the outer space. They travel large distances and can cause damages to satellites, powergrids, communication and navigation systems.
Which layer of the Sun is visible to the Naked eye?
Photosphere is the visible layer of the Sun.
Photosphere is the granular layer that is visible to us each day. It is the layer that radiates light. Photosphere is not the topmost layer, there are two more layers above: the Chromosphere and the Corona that are visible only during the eclipse.
Sunspots are only present in the photosphere layer.
Though photosphere is closer to the core, the temperature is higher in the Corona. It can reach up to 500,000℃ while the photosphere can get as hot as 6200℃.
The largest Solar storm observed in history was?
Carrington Event in 1859 was the biggest Sun Storm ever observed.
This happened way back in the year 1859. Telephone lines were disrupted all across the world and a few telephone operators were even jolted by electricity passing through the line. Just before the dawn, the sky had turned colourful with auroras lighting the skies even at the equator.
A day earlier, Richard C. Carrington, an English astronomer reported seeing bright spark of light from the sun through his telescope. The light was nothing but a solar flare. However, that day, the solar flare was accompanied by a huge Coronal Mass Ejection that took a mere 17.6 hrs to reach the Earth. CMS struck the Earth's magnetic field and disturbed the atmosphere, resulting in the Carrington event.
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