What Makes The Sun Shine?

Once a sun has formed, its light can stay shining for billions of years

It’s a question we rarely give much thought; it just does. However, do not sweat, there is a scientific explanation for this commonplace phenomenon.

And, strangely enough,  it’s really not all that complicated. The sun, like every star, was created by the effect of gravity. Originally, all the matter that makes up the sun was in the form of dust and gas floating in space. This dust was composed of many different elements, with the most prevalent being hydrogen.

Over time, the force of gravity caused the dust to lump together; the larger the lump became, the more dust it accumulated. These lumps continued to grow and connect, until a few billion years later a titanic mass was formed, called a proto-star.

Soon, the gravitational attraction of the proto-star bagan to pull its parts tighter and tighter together. As the proto-star became larger, the more powerful this pull became, thus the tighter it compacted.

This continued until the proto-star became so tightly packed that hydrogen atoms began to fuse with each other, releasing a blast of energy containing a new element, helium.

At this point the proto-star has become an actual star, crushing hydrogen into helium in an ongoing controlled explosion. The outward force of the explosion keeps the star from contracting too small, while the inward crush of gravity keeps it from blowing apart. Once this equilibrium is reached, a star such as our own sun can stay balanced and shining for literally billions of years.

Everyone knows that the earth turns, but most people don’t know that the sun turns too. I’m not talking about being in orbit, now–the earth definitely orbits the sun and not the other way around. I’m talking about the entire sun spinning on its axis, like a globe when you give it a push with your hand.

The sun spins around its own axis with a period of about twenty-seven days. That means it takes twenty seven days for the same side to come around again. Back in the seventeenth century, Galileo was the first person to point out that sunspots move from day to day, giving him the idea that the whole sun might be rotating.

Even today, a lot of people aren’t aware of the suns rotation, simply because you can’t look directly at it.  But Galileo was absolutely right, as our modern observations confirm.

The Sun Just Blew Up!

Here’s an unsettling thought: how do you know the sun didn’t just explode? We aren’t talking about the everyday, run-of-the-mill controlled explosion the sun is always doing. We mean BOOM, gone, vanished, no more sun! How do we know it’s still there?

The answer? We don’t. Not yet, anyway.

The light from the sun is indeed right before our eyes, but the sun itself is ninety-three million miles away. Ninety-three million miles is a tremendous distance, so vast that light takes a little while to get from there to here. In fact, the sun that we see in the sky is an image that has been traveling through space for about eight minutes.

So the sun itself could have vanished as many as seven minutes and fifty seconds ago and we’d be clueless.

Wouldn’t the earth spin out of orbit if that were true? Well, since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, not even the influence of gravity, there would be absolutely no way to tell that the sun was gone. For eight minutes we would continue orbiting, and basking in, an illusion.

Don’t worry too much about this though, after eight minutes we would be bound to figure it out. Source Indiana Public Media



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