Top Ten Interesting and Fun Facts About the Sun

Updated on January 23, 2018
stuff4kids profile image

Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

The Sun is our nearest star and the source of almost all the energy at the Earth's surface. Without the Sun life as we know it would be impossible.
The Sun is our nearest star and the source of almost all the energy at the Earth's surface. Without the Sun life as we know it would be impossible. | Source

1. The Sun Maintains Life

The Sun is the most important celestial body as it maintains all life.

The Sun gives us light and heat. Astrophysicists have now worked out it provides close to 100% of all the energy at the Earth's surface.

In this article, we'll look at facts not only about this astonishing star itself but the history of our relationship with it and its influence on life on Earth.

A Blazing Star in the Heavens

The Sun is the heart of the solar system.
The Sun is the heart of the solar system. | Source

2. Sun Worship in Ancient Times

Primitive peoples of ancient times worshiped the Sun. Many surviving indigenous cultures still revere the Sun as a god or goddess today.

The Sun God, Apollo.

This statue shows the Sun-god Apollo with the serpent Python, which lies dead at his feet. Originally in Florence, Italy, the statue is now in a Baltimore museum.
This statue shows the Sun-god Apollo with the serpent Python, which lies dead at his feet. Originally in Florence, Italy, the statue is now in a Baltimore museum. | Source

The earliest Chinese civilizations believed a solar eclipse (when the passage of a planet between the Sun and the Earth blocks it from view) was the “dog of heaven” taking a bite out of it!

The Central American Aztecs offered bloody human sacrifices to their Sun-god, Huitzilopochtli. They believed without these sacrificial offerings the Sun could no longer make its daily journey across the sky.

The ancient Egyptian culture endured for over 3,000 years. During that time there were many versions of the Sun-god. One of the most popular was Khepre the scarab beetle. Just as the real beetle rolls balls of dung across the ground, they thought the divine version rolled the Sun across the sky.

The ancient Romans and Greeks had very similar Sun-gods called Apollo and Helios. These guys had blazing Sun-chariots that they rode across the sky.

Many of the mythical Sun-gods died, to be reborn after a journey to the underworld. This symbolizes the setting and rising of the actual Sun.

The Christian myth of Easter, with the death and resurrection of Jesus, is part of the same solar tradition. And the symbol of the “halo” placed behind the heads of saints in Christian art is a solar symbol from ancient times.

Secrets of the Sun

3. The Sun and the Seasons

In ancient times people thought the Sun traveled across the sky.

We can forgive the ancients their misunderstanding. From where we stand on the surface of the Earth, it looks as if the Sun rises in the east in the morning, moves across the sky during the day and sets in the west.

Antique Astronomical Map of the Seasons

Adam and Charles Black's 1873 chart of the Solar System and the Theory of the Seasons.
Adam and Charles Black's 1873 chart of the Solar System and the Theory of the Seasons. | Source

But it doesn't. It's an illusion.

It certainly doesn't make the journey in a mystic barge or celestial chariot chased by heavenly dogs!

If you stand on a carousel, it seems the world is spinning around you. But you know better. You know the world is still and you are the one doing the spinning.

Earth's Orbit and the Astronomical Seasons

The Earth's orbit showing the four astronomical seasons from the northern hemisphere.
The Earth's orbit showing the four astronomical seasons from the northern hemisphere. | Source

The reason the Sun appears to make its journey across the sky is because the Earth itself is turning eastward on its own axis. So the Earth is spinning around the Sun and on its own axis. This explains not only the cycle of day and night but also seasonal progression.

So how is it that the Sun seems to shine brighter and longer in the summer than in the winter?

We've said the Earth's spinning axis tilts toward the Sun. In the Northern Hemisphere (where the USA and the UK are) the height of summer takes place in June. The Northern Hemisphere tilts towards the Sun in June, and in the opposite month of December tilts away.

In the Southern Hemisphere (where you'll find China, India, and most of Africa) the situation is the other way.

Heading further to the north or the south, one way or the other, the area exposed to the Sun's light and heat is greater or lesser.

And if you go north of the Arctic circle, then at midsummer the sun never sets at all!

Check out this great little video that explains everything in an easy to understand and fun way:

The Sun and the Seasons Explained

4. The Sun is a Star

Because of the Sun's importance to all our lives here on Earth, we tend to think of it as being unique.

The truth is, the Sun is just one of literally billions of other stars very much like it.

The Milky Way is Home to 100 Billion Other Suns.

The central part of our galaxy, The Milky Way. This section is tiny, just one hundred light years wide and about twenty-six thousand light years from Earth. Even in this small section there are hundreds of millions of stars just like our Sun.
The central part of our galaxy, The Milky Way. This section is tiny, just one hundred light years wide and about twenty-six thousand light years from Earth. Even in this small section there are hundreds of millions of stars just like our Sun. | Source

Sun Questions Answered

Question
Answer
How old is the Sun?
About 4.5 billion years old
What kind if star is the Sun?
It's a Yellow Dwarf
What is the Sun's diameter?
Approximately 865, 373 miles
What's the surface temperature of the Sun?
6000 °C

Our galaxy, known as The Milky Way, hosts about 100 billion other suns. Add to that the fact that many billions of other galaxies are out there and you'll begin to see that in the larger scheme of things, our Sun is not so unique after all!

Not only are there many other Sun-like stars out there but many of them support their own planetary solar systems, too.

Most modern astrophysicists now accept biological life probably exists on many of the planets circling those distant stars.

So if the Sun isn't unique, the chances are that we aren't, either.

The Birth of the Sun

5. How Was the Sun Formed?

Our Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago, making it almost one third as old as the entire known Universe.

The Sun started out as a vast cloud of particle debris left over from the explosive death of an even older star somewhere else in the Universe.

Most of the particles were hydrogen, the most common element in existence.

6. Nuclear Fusion is the Source of the Sun's Energy

A schematic diagram showing nuclear fusion. This is the reaction which is the source of the Sun's energy and light.
A schematic diagram showing nuclear fusion. This is the reaction which is the source of the Sun's energy and light. | Source

The forces of gravity caused all these particles to draw together. So the swirling mass of particles became denser and denser, collapsing in on itself.

This process generated a huge amount of heat energy because of friction between the particles.

At a certain temperature and speed, the nuclei of the atoms fused together to form helium.

This process is “nuclear fusion”. It generates massive bursts of radiation in the form of gamma-rays. It takes the gamma-rays formed in the Sun's core about one million years to reach the Sun's surface. Yes, the Sun is very, very big!

As the gamma-rays travel, they change their frequency until they emerge from the Sun's surface and out into space as visible light.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum and Visible Light

The electromagnetic spectrum shows the changing frequencies of electromagnetic energy. The light from the Sun begins as gamma-rays and reaches us as visible light.
The electromagnetic spectrum shows the changing frequencies of electromagnetic energy. The light from the Sun begins as gamma-rays and reaches us as visible light. | Source

Light is one frequency range of a universal force called “electromagnetic energy”.

There is enough heat and hydrogen left in the Sun for it to live another 4 billion years before it explodes just as the parent star that provided the original material for its own formation did.

And who knows? Maybe our Sun will start the whole process off all over again. But life on Earth will have become extinct in the cold and the dark long, long before then.

A New Star Forming

A new star still forming and surrounded by the proto-planetary discs of swirling gas that will later coalesce to form orbital planets. This is the same process that formed our own star, the Sun.
A new star still forming and surrounded by the proto-planetary discs of swirling gas that will later coalesce to form orbital planets. This is the same process that formed our own star, the Sun. | Source

7. How Hot is the Sun?

The Sun is very, very, very hot!

The Sun's core, the site of all that nuclear fusion we've just been discussing, is the hottest part at a scorching 15 million degrees Celsius. That's 2.7000 x 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

As I said, pretty hot.

The surface of the Sun is relatively cool being a mere six thousand degrees Celsius.

However, the Sun's surface isn't the same temperature all over. If it’s observed through special filters, areas known as "sunspots" can be observed.

Sunspots and Solar Flares

Seen through special filters, solar flares are intense bursts of radioactivity closely associated with sunspots. Sunspots are caused by variations in the magnetic field.
Seen through special filters, solar flares are intense bursts of radioactivity closely associated with sunspots. Sunspots are caused by variations in the magnetic field. | Source

Sunspots are areas where irregular fluctuations in the Sun's magnetic field cause solar protrusions. Theses sunspots in themselves are cooler than the rest of the star's surface.

While they are cooler in themselves, the electromagnetic activity they cause can often result in a phenomenon known as a "solar flare".

8. Solar Flares and CMEs

Solar flares are projectile bursts of high energy X-rays.

They cause coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the most explosive events in our whole solar system. When CMEs occur, huge quantities of hyper-electrically charged gas particles known as “plasma are projected from the surface.

Aurora Borealis

Plasma ejected from the surface of the Sun interacts with the Earth's atmosphere to cause the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.
Plasma ejected from the surface of the Sun interacts with the Earth's atmosphere to cause the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. | Source

In March 2012 there was quite a scare which gathered a lot of media attention when a vast CME headed Earthward.

The anxiety was that the electromagnetic influence of such an event could have caused a “radio blackout” leaving the entire planet without electricity or communications.

The impact was not as great as people feared. In fact, the most noticeable effect was an increase in the number and size of auroras in the Northern Hemisphere which produced the most beautiful ever seen.

9. How Long Before the Sun Dies?

The Sun will not go on forever.

It will burn up all its fuel and die.

Once the hydrogen element is consumed, the Sun will then burn up its helium. This process will go on for about one hundred thirty million years.

The Sun as a Red Giant

The Sun will expand to 100 million times its current size, becoming a Red Giant and burning the Earth to a crisp.
The Sun will expand to 100 million times its current size, becoming a Red Giant and burning the Earth to a crisp. | Source

10. How Far Away is the Sun?

The distance from the Earth to the Sun varies with the time of year as our planet undergoes an elliptical solar orbit.

At its nearest point, the Sun lies some 86, 991, 966 miles from the Earth. At its furthest away, it is about 94, 448, 420 miles off.

The average distance between the Earth and the Sun is used as a standard of measurement in astronomy and is known as an Astronomical Unit or AU.

Average walking speed is three miles an hour. How long would it take to walk to the Sun?

During that time the area of the Sun will expand and it will become much brighter and hotter until it destroys life on Earth, evaporates the oceans and consumes the entire planet along with our nearby planets, Mercury and Venus.

The Sun is a kind of star known as a Yellow Dwarf but at that stage it will have become a Red Giant.

There is another phase following that as, once the expansive energy is all burned up, the Sun will contract again to a dense nugget about the size of the Earth that it will have destroyed. Stars at this stage are “White Dwarfs”.

Stunning Images from the NASA Solar Observatory

Sun Quiz: Time to test Your Solar Knowledge!

view quiz statistics

Bye Bye, Sun!

And so our journey to the Sun comes to an end. Pretty hot stuff, right?

There's a lot more to learn about our nearest star and you can find out more by visiting the NASA website and searching the solar observatory.

If you have something to say or a question you'd like to ask, please go right ahead and do so in the comments box. It would be great to hear from you!

Have you tried the Sun Quiz?

Give it a go and see how you do!

NB: Never look directly at the Sun with naked eyes, binoculars or a telescope. You could permanently damage your eyesight.

© 2014 Amanda Littlejohn

Got something to say? Well come right out an' say it!

Submit a Comment

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 14 months ago

    Hi rebelogilbert and thank you so much for your interesting contribution. The sun is certainly a fascinating subject!

    Bless you. :)

  • rebelogilbert profile image

    Gilbert Arevalo 14 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

    Amanda, you put together a very fun and important article about the sun. You included great photos and videos with a fun writing style, but it's awfully frightening thinking about sun expansion days. I learned about that fact from other astronomy books. I used to think with age the sun would get weaker and cold, not hotter, amazing, the chemical make-up of the sun.

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

    Hi Aliur,

    Thanks. Glad you found it that way.

    :)

  • profile image

    Aliur 3 years ago

    Informative and easily understandable.

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi manatita44!

    Thanks for your comment. I'm glad that you enjoyed reading these facts about the Sun and were especially interested in the ancient Aztec's Sun worship.

    Bless you :)

  • manatita44 profile image

    manatita44 4 years ago from london

    No need to tell you that you chose a really powerful topic. The Aztecs were quite clever, and very much in tune.

    Great video. Probably has more uses too.

    Good to hear that the kids are independent. Enjoy your Mother's Day.

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi DDE!

    Hey, thanks so much for reading this and your kind comment. Glad you found it interesting.

    Bless you :)

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Great hub! Educational and informative.

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi fpherj48!

    Thank you so much for your enthusiastic appreciation, *blush*

    We hear so much about Mars these days because of the on-going explorations there and the future plans for colonization but the very heart of our solar system is too often neglected.

    For life on Earth, it is the Sun that will determine our ultimate fate. Of course we might have gotten far enough away to survive in the next billion years or so but by then - as evolution is an on-going process - we almost certainly won't be human any more.

    As they say - Cosmic!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Amanda.....A very interesting, useful and worthwhile educational hub! Well-presented, I appreciate the research done. Together with your obvious talent of sharing information with your readers...this hub is a winner!...UP+++

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi Carrie!

    Thanks for your generous comment. I'm so happy you enjoyed this article about the history of the wild west.

    Bless you. :)

  • carrie Lee Night profile image

    Carrie Lee Night 4 years ago from Northeast United States

    Very good hub ! :) Great use of visuals and text. Thank you for taking the time to write this educational hub. Have a great week.

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi icv!

    Thanks for your comment and contribution to the hub.

    I agree that this information is real and I think I know what you mean about 'miracles' if you mean that this stuff inspires awe and wonder and really stretches the imagination to comprehend. Totally with you, there!

    But I do think it is fun, too. Maybe not 'light-hearted' but still fun.

    Thanks again and bless you. :)

  • icv profile image

    IRSHAD CV 4 years ago from India, Kerala

    very nice hub on this topic. these are not fun but real and miracles. thanks for sharing...

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi Hackslap,

    Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I'll check out your hub, for sure!

    Bless you :)

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi Flourish Anyway!

    Thanks for stopping by - I hadn't really thought about Easter when I wrote this. Still, the Sun is a fascinating subject from any angle.

    Thanks for your contribution.

    Bless. :)

  • stuff4kids profile image
    Author

    Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

    Hi Bill!

    Thanks for reading this and for your generous comments - your opinion is always of value.

    While I studied life sciences, I still find astronomy and cosmology fascinating.

    Bless you :D

  • Hackslap profile image

    Harry 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Great hub! .. I'm always fascinated by the cosmos ...please take the time to read my article on the Solar System.. Cheers!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

    Very timely with Easter near. I learned a lot with this great hub of yours, Mindi! Well done with so much diversity of interest areas and educational value, too!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Well, as an old science and geography teacher, that was definitely interesting. What a great resource for kids. Well done my friend.

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