The Sun

Kendall Spell

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The Layers of the Sun

  • Core

  • Radiative Zone

  • Convective Zone

  • Photosphere

  • Chromospere

  • Corona

The Core

The Sun's core is the central region where nuclear reactions consume hydrogen to form helium. These reactions release the energy that ultimately leaves the surface as visible light. These reactions are highly sensitive to temperature and density. The individual hydrogen nuclei must collide with enough energy to give a reasonable probability of overcoming the repulsive electrical force between these two positively charged particles. The temperature at the very center of the Sun is about 27,000,000° F.

Radioactive Zone

The Sun's radiative zone is the section of the solar interior between the innermost core and the outer convective zone. In the radiative zone, energy generated by nuclear fusion in the core moves outward as electromagnetic radiation. In other words, the energy is conveyed by photons.

Convection Zone

The convection zone is farther away from the core than the the radiative zone. At this point turbulent convective motions occur, similar to a pot of boiling water. The overturning (bubbling) motions inside the Sun are responsible for the granulation pattern seen on the Sun's surface.

Photosphere

The photosphere is the visible surface of the Sun that we are most familiar with. Since the Sun is a ball of gas, this is not a solid surface but is actually a layer about 100 km thick (very, very, thin compared to the 700,000 km radius of the Sun).

Chromosphere

The chromosphere is an irregular layer above the photosphere where the temperature rises from 6000°C to about 20,000°C. At these higher temperatures hydrogen emits light that gives off a reddish color. This colorful emission can be seen in prominences that project above the limb of the sun during total solar eclipses. This is what gives the chromosphere its name (color-sphere).

Corona

    A corona (Latin, 'crown') is an aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other celestial bodies. The Sun's corona extends millions of kilometres into space and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but it is also observable with a coronagraph.

Sunspots

    Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the photosphere of the Sun that appear visibly as dark spots compared to surrounding regions. They correspond to concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection and result in reduced surface temperature compared to the surrounding photosphere.



Prominence

A solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun's surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, called the corona

Flare

A solar flare is a sudden flash of brightness observed near the Sun's surface. It involves a very broad spectrum of emissions, requiring an energy release of up to 6 × 10^25 joules of energy

Aurora

The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.