The Sun is just one of countless stars that exist in our universe. But it’s one of the most prominent because it’s so close to us, and that’s what makes it so influential over Earth’s time of day and temperature, among other things.
Given just how bright the Sun is in our sky compared to the plethora of other stars in our universe, it can be difficult to conceptualize the thought that our Sun is far from the largest and hottest star in existence. Outer space is just so unimaginably large that some of the brightest and largest stars are incredibly distant from us, and this makes them appear dim in the night sky.
The Sun, just like any other star, is a hot, swirling ball of gas and plasma in which a process called fusion takes place. The explosive forces happening in the Sun’s core are continuously pressing outward, while the forces of gravity fight against that same explosive force. As these forces fight one another, it creates pressure, and scientists say the Sun’s pressure equates to 260 billion times that of the Earth’s atmospheric pressure. All that pressure generates heat, and that’s what helps the Sun reach its blistering 15 million decrees Celsius.
So what’s happening in the Sun’s core as fusion takes place? Essentially, it’s so hot that hydrogen atoms become completely ionized. Their electrons are ripped from their atoms and protons, creating a dense glob of subatomic particles that, under the excruciating pressure, fuse together to form helium atoms. In fact, the Sun transforms around 700 million tons of hydrogen into 695 tons of helium every day, with the remaining 5 tons being released as energy.
The Sun is also comprised of high intensity magnetic fields. If you’ve ever seen those beautiful NASA solar observatory images, then you’ll witnessed those mind-boggling loops that feed out of the Sun’s surface. These are essentially magnetic fields, and they can sometimes short-circuit, sending a blast of energy equating up to 10% of the Sun’s total power output out in the form of a solar flare.
Given just how essential the Sun is to life on Earth, this is just one reason why NASA studies is to vividly. We still have many questions about the Sun, and with a little luck, perhaps we’ll answer them soon enough.