Diving into the Sun

By Trevor McDonald

The Sun

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Layers of the Sun

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The innermost layer of the Sun. This is where energy from nuclear fusion is generated. The core is very hot and dense due to gravity. The temperature here is about 16 million Kelvin (K). The density of the core is around 160 times that of water, due to the extreme temperatures though, it is still in a gas state.

Radiative Zone

The radiative zone is above the core. The energy produced from nuclear fusion in the core is transferred through this layer to the others by photons. Accounts for about 85% of the Sun's inner radius.

Convective Zone

The convective zone is where energy is transported by bulk motions of gas through the process of convection. With the cooler temperatures (relatively to the core), more ions block the outward flow of photon radiation from the radiative zone. This is why the process of convection is at place, which transfers the energy to the surface.


The surface layer of the sun. The temperature here varies from 6500 degrees Kelvin (K) at the bottom to 4000 degrees K at the top. Most of this layer is covered by granulation. It is also the deepest layer of the Sun that we can see directly. As you go lower in the lower layers, it gets hotter.


The layer above the Photosphere. The Chromosphere is almost transparent, all you can see of it is a red glow around the Sun. The temperature here varies between 4000 K at the bottom and 8000 K at the top. As you go higher in the upper layers, it gets hotter.


"Crown". The outermost layer of the Sun, it can only be seen by the naked eye during a solar eclipse. The temperature range in the Corona ranges from about 500,000 Kelvin at the bottom to a few million Kelvin.


Sunspots are small dark areas on the surface (photosphere) of the Sun. These spots are 1000-1500 K cooler than the majority of the photosphere. They are dark because of them being so much cooler. Sunspots last anywhere from a few days to a few months.


A prominence is a large, bright cloud of gas that forms above the surface of the Sun. These gas clouds follow magnetic field loops which gives them their arch shape.


(Solar) Flares are eruptions that have more power than prominences. These eruptions only last a few minutes to a few hours. Solar flares are caused by magnetic field lines snapping violently when they get too twisted. Flares eject a large amount of ionized material, these ion waves can reach the Earth even and cause voltage pulses in power/telephone lines.


Auroras are lights (Northern Lights) seen on the Earth near the north and south poles. These light shows are caused by solar flares ionized material exciting atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere.