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Facts About the Sun & How It Contributes to Earth
- The sun is an average size star. The temperature on the surface is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The mass of the sun is approximately 330,000 times that of the Earth and contains ninety-nine percent of all mass in the galaxy. Gravity on the sun is twenty-eight times the Earth's gravity. It is composed primarily of helium and hydrogen gases with traces, less than two percent total, of iron, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. The sun is made up of seven layers.
Layers of the Sun
- The inner core comprises the densest portion of the sun. Nuclear fusion occurs in the center through proton-proton chains converting hydrogen to helium. In the radiative zone heat is transferred by thermal radiation. The convection zone carries hot material to the surface of the sun through thermal convection. The visible layer of the sun is the photosphere. The atmosphere of the sun is comprised of additional layers, the chromosphere and corona. The chromosphere is cool enough for carbon monoxide and water molecules to exist. The corona is the outer most layer with a volume larger than the rest of the sun. It is continually expanding forming solar winds.
Sun spots, flares, and prominences
- Sunspots are dark blemishes on the surface of the sun, they are cooler than the area surrounding them. They are caused by intense magnetic activity that slows convection. Solar flares have been known to disrupt communication systems on Earth. They are violent explosions from the surface that emit high volumes of gas and high energy particles. Little is understood about solar prominences and why they occur. They are high gas formations that are held in place by magnetic fields.
Effects of the Sun on Climate
- The Earth absorbs energy and light from the sun. This effects the climates of the Earth. During the 11 year solar cycle, various changes occur, including a cooling off of the Earth. During this time there are fewer sunspots noted. Small shifts in climate can affect things such as plant and animal growth and populations. Climate changes also influence weather patterns.
- Sun light is vital to the process of photosynthesis. Most plants on Earth harness the light energy from the sun to perform this process. Photosynthesis is the process where light energy is converted into chemical energy and stored in the sugar bonds of the plant.