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What Is the Sun Made of? Components, Features, and Parts of the Sun

Updated on June 9, 2017
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Januaris is an astronomy graduate and has specialized in planetary astrophysics. He loves to study and write about the solar system.

What is the sun made of? This is a common question that I think has never gotten the right answer. Read on to find the right answer! But first, what exactly is the sun?

The sun, also known as the solar, is a star that was formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The celestial body was formed from a collapse of a giant cloud that consisted mainly of hydrogen and helium. It is the brightest component of the solar system and the primary source of energy for life on earth (Aller, L.H).

Most people think that the solar is red or yellow in color, but the truth is that the celestial object is white in color. It has a defined structure, but lacks a solid surface. The surface is composed of hot gases and other elements that are at a temperature of approximately 6,000 Kelvin (Aller, L.H, Wilk, S.R).

In this article, I will discuss the components, features and parts of the sun and their importance. So get to know what is contained in this largest star.

gases and elements make solar surface
gases and elements make solar surface | Source

In Brief, What is the Sun Made Of? Well, Here are the Components of the Sun

  1. Hydrogen and helium
  2. The core
  3. The radiative zone
  4. The convective zone
  5. The photosphere
  6. The solar atmosphere
  7. Neutrinos
  8. Radio emissions
  9. X-rays
  10. Prominence
  11. Flare

1. Hydrogen and Helium - Major Components of the Sun

The sun is chemically composed of hydrogen and helium. The two elements came from the Big Bang process and account for 98% of the celestial object's mass. The remaining percentage is accounted for by oxygen, carbon, neon, iron, magnesium, nickel, chromium, sulfur and silicon (Parnel, C, Aller, L.H, Hansteen, V.H, Leer, E, Holzer, T.E).

2. The Core

According to astrophysicists, this is the hottest zone/part of the sun. It is believed to be at a temperature in the region of 15.7 million Kelvin and under a very high pressure.

The high temperature and pressure cause nuclear fusion which involves the atoms of hydrogen and helium combining together. The process gives out light and heat which penetrate through the other zones to the earth and remaining parts of the solar system. The core occupies 25% of the star's radius (Mullan, D.J, Aller, L.H, Cohen, H, Zirker J.B).

3. The Radiative Zone

In this zone, the temperature is much lower than in the core. It ranges from 2-7 million Kelvin, depending on the distance from the core. The ions of hydrogen and helium are responsible for energy transfer in this layer.

Radiations from the core lose a lot of energy when passing through this zone to the earth. Life would be unbearable or there would be no life on the earth if this region doesn't absorb some of the radiations' energy. The region takes 70% of the star's radius, making it the largest in the celestial body (Tobias, S.M, Mullan, D.J, Cohen, H, Zirker J.B, Aller, L.H).

4. The Convective Zone

This is the outermost layer of the sun. It consists of heavier materials that are partially ionized. The temperature falls to about 6,000 Kelvin and heat transfer takes place through convection. The zone extends to another layer surrounding the star known as photosphere (Cohen, H, Mullan, D.J, Aller, L.H, Zirker J.B, Tobias, S.M).

5. The Photosphere

This is the part of the sun that we see from the earth. Its upper region is cooler than the lower region, and this is the reason why the center of the solar is brighter than the edges.

Studies show that there exist some water and carbon monoxide molecules in the cooler region. The temperature of this zone is less than 6,000 K (Zirker J.B, Mullan, D.J, Aller, L.H, Cohen, H).

sun in a cloudy evening
sun in a cloudy evening | Source

6. The Solar Atmosphere - Important Part and Feature of the Sun

The solar atmosphere is divided into three zones: chromosphere, corona and heliosphere.

Chromosphere. This is a 2,000 km-thick layer that is filled with a colored flash of emissions and magnetic flux lines. It is the innermost layer of the atmosphere and consists of a partially-ionized helium. Its temperature lies between 6,000 K to 20,000 K (De Pontieu).

Corona. This is the second hottest zone of the star, after the core. Its temperature ranges between 1million Kelvin and 20 million Kelvin, and it consists of darker, less hot regions known as coronal holes or sunspots (Parker, E.N).

Another interesting feature of the corona is the solar wind, which consists of waves that blow away from the zone to other parts of the solar system. The waves are commonly known as coronal plasma or loops (Rusell, C.T).

Heliosphere. This is the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere. It is filled with energetic particles as well as the solar wind, and is believed to be felt in all planets (Space Ref, Rusell, C.T).

7. Other Features and Components

  • Neutrinos- Micro particles produced during the fusion reactions.
  • Radio emissions- Formed when magnetic field lines interact with elements on the surface.
  • X-rays- Formed when the sun’s magnetic field gets twisted up.
  • Prominence- A bright, loop-shaped feature that extends above the surface.
  • Flare- A sudden, bright flash that happens near the surface.

parts, components & features
parts, components & features | Source

In Conclusion...

These are the major components, features, parts, zones and layers of the sun, and I hope that that now you have understood what makes up the sun. But one more interesting thing about this celestial body is that the solar luminosity is not constant: it is on the rise. Scientists believe that the increasing luminosity is likely to evaporate all the water on the earth in a few billion years.

Lastly, now that you have known what the sun is made of, you would definitely also want to know what the moon is made of! Visit this page to know all the components, features and parts of this natural satellite!

References

  • Mullan, D. J. "Solar Physics: From the Deep Interior to the Hot Corona". Springler Science & Business Media. Print. 11 Sept, 2000.
  • Parnel, C. "Discovery of Helium".solar.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk. University of St Andrews. 22 Mar, 2006.
  • Wilk, S.R. "The Yellow S' Paradox". osa-opn.org. Optics & Photonics News. 16 Dec, 2009.
  • Aller, L.H. "The Chemical Composition of the S' and the Solar System". adsabs.harvard.edu. Harvard University. 30 May, 1968.
  • Cohen, H. "Table of Temperatures, Power Densities, Luminosities by Radius in the S". webarchive.loc.gov. Contemporary Physics Education Project. 9 Nov, 1998.
  • Haubold, H. J.; Mathai, A. M."Solar Nuclear Energy Generation & The Chlorine Solar Neutrino Experiment". adsabs.harvard.edu. AIP Conference Proceedings. 06 Nov, 1994.
  • Zirker, J. B. "Journey from the Center of the S". Princeton University Press. Print. 03 Dec, 2002.
  • Tobias, S.M. "The Solar Tachocline: Formation, Stability and its Role in the Solar Dynamo". Fluid Dynamics and Dynamos in Astrophysics and Geophysics. CRC Press. pp. 193–235. 18 Feb, 2005.
  • Hansteen, V.H. Leer, E. Holzer, T.E. "The Role of Helium in the Outer Solar Atmosphere". adsabs.harvard.edu. The Astrophysical Journal. 16 Jul, 1997.
  • UCAR. “Parts of the S”. scied.ucar.edu. UCAR Center for Science Education. 17 Apr, 2012.
  • Russell, C.T. "Solar Wind and Interplanetary Magnetic Field". Space Weather (Geophysical Monograph) (PDF). American Geophysical Union. pp. 73–88. 07 Aug, 2001.
  • Parker, E.N."Nanoflares and the Solar X-ray Corona". Astrophysical Journal. adsabs.harvard.edu. Harvard University. 26 Jan, 1988.
  • Space Ref."The Distortion of the Heliosphere: Our Interstellar Magnetic Compass". spaceref.com. European Space Agency. 22 Mar, 2006.

Were you aware of some of these things that make up the sun?

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© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores

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    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting article. You have given a detailed account of the various layers and features of Sun here.

      Voted up.

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 2 years ago from the Midwest

      Thank you Venkatachari M.

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