Glacial Energy Blog

What’s in the Sun?

sun in blue skyThe sun provides us with light and warmth every single day. We use sunlight to warm our homes, help grow our plants, and even power cities. The sun, whose official name is Sol (where we get the word “solar� from), produces enough energy every single second to power every electronic device on the Earth for half a million years. It outputs light in every wavelength from gamma rays to X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, and infrared. That light travels about 92.96 million miles (1 AU or Astronomical Unit) and takes about eight minutes to reach the Earth. That means that in a live viewing of the sun, you are seeing it as it was eight minutes in the past.

The amount of energy that reaches Earth every second is enough to power 4 trillion 100-watt bulbs. The amount of energy that hits just a single square mile each year is equivalent to 4 million barrels of oil. About 1% of all US energy production is generated from solar power. Massachusetts is the current leading state in solar power production.

For all its benefits, the sun also has its dangers. Looking directly at it for any length of time, especially looking at it through magnifying lenses like binoculars or telescopes can severely damage your eyes. Sunlight focused through magnifying lenses can also start fires. In climates that experience dry spells with foliage are at risk of massive wild fires caused by sun exposure.

Though it may appear small in the sky, the sun accounts for 99.8% of the total mass of the solar system and could fit over 1.3 million Earths inside it. A single “day� on the sun lasts between 25 and 36 Earth days. We get this by watching how the surface rotates around the sphere. The day lengths vary from equator to the poles since the sun is not a solid object, like Earth. It is comprised of more than 70% hydrogen and 28% helium. Through nuclear fusion, the sun’s core converts hydrogen into helium. When the hydrogen runs out, the sun will start to die, but fortunately that won’t be for another 5 billion years or so.

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