What Keeps the Sun Burning?
The sun is the star at the center of our solar system. It is about 1.3 million times the size of Earth and has the mass of about 333,000 Earths. The sun will continue to burn for another 5 billion years.
Interesting facts about the Sun
Here are some interesting facts about the sun:
The sun is mostly plasma
To know what keeps the sun burning, we should first examine what the sun is made of. The sun, like nearly all other stars, is made up of plasma. Plasma is a state of matter (or gas) in which the particles are ionized. To simplify it, you can think of plasma as gas with an electric charge. The sun has been burning for billions of years and will continue to burn for billions more.
The gasses that make up the sun are hydrogen and helium
The gasses that make up the sun is mostly hydrogen and helium. These two elements make up the majority of the sun’s mass, and most other stars we see in the night sky. In fact, hydrogen is consists for more than 90% of all atoms present in the universe. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion, which is the process of combining atoms to form new elements. This process releases a tremendous amount of energy, which is what keeps the sun going. Nuclear fusion releases energy in the form of heat and light.
The sun is really, really hot
The sun is essentially the hottest thing in our solar system. This is not surprising given that it is constantly undergoing nuclear fusion. The sun is huge and so is its core, which is where most of the nuclear fusion occurs. The sun’s core, just like the rest of the star, is made up of hydrogen and helium, and it’s under an incredibly high amount of pressure.
The core of the sun is much, much hotter than the surface we see. While temperatures on the surface reaches 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5500 degrees Celsius), the core of the sun reaches a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 15 million degrees Celsius).
The sun is larger than you think
You may already be aware that the sun is a large – very large. But what you may not know is just how large it is.
The sun is so huge that it could fit about 1.3 million Earths inside of it. That’s big! But size isn’t the only thing that makes the sun remarkable. For its size, the sun isn’t dense at all. The density of the sun is considered to be roughly quarter that of the Earth’s.
How long will the sun last?
The sun is a star that is made mostly of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a gas that can be found all over the universe. In the sun, hydrogen atoms are constantly combining to form helium atoms. This process releases a lot of energy in the form of heat and light. That’s what makes the sun so bright and hot!
The sun will continue to produce energy for billions of years. But eventually, it will run out of hydrogen to turn into helium. When that happens, the sun will start to cool down and expand to be several times its current size. It will transform into a red giant star, and eventually, a white dwarf star. But don’t worry – this won’t happen for billions and billions of years!
What keeps the sun burning?
Now to answer the question of what keeps the sun burning, it is important to establish that the sun isn’t actually burning. It is undergoing nuclear fusion. But for the moment, let’s pretend like nuclear fusion is in fact burning. So what keeps the sun burning?
What keeps the sun burning is the immense pressure causing hydrogen atoms to change into helium releasing energy in the form of heat and light. To simplify this, think of hydrogen as the fuel, and helium as the end product. The process of turning hydrogen into helium is what releases heat and light (which is what we normally associate burning with). While it is exactly the definition of nuclear fusion, it is the answer to “what keeps the sun burning?”.
Harvesting energy from the sun using solar panels
Solar panels are a great way to make use of sunlight to power your home/business. Solar panels are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills. You can read more about solar panels here.
The sun is a star that has been burning for billions of years and will continue to burn for billions more. What keeps the sun burning is the nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium atoms. This process releases a tremendous amount of energy, which is what we see as sunlight.
The sun will eventually run out of hydrogen fuel and die, but that won’t happen for billions of years. In the meantime, we can enjoy its life-giving warmth and light.