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.
In Brief, What is the Sun Made Of? Well, Here are the Components of the Sun
- Hydrogen and helium
- The core
- The radiative zone
- The convective zone
- The photosphere
- The solar atmosphere
- Radio emissions
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).
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.
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!
- Mullan, D. J. "Solar Physics: From the Deep Interior to the Hot Corona". Springler Science & Business Media. Print. 11 Sept, 2000.
- Stix M. The Sun: An Introduction (Astronomy and Astrophysics Library). 2nd Edition. Springer Publisher. 2002.
- 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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Does the core mean the heart of the sun?
Answer: Yeah, as heart sometimes refers to the center.
Question: What is the sun flare made of?
Answer: Magnetic energy, radiations, rays, heat etc
Question: What is solar prominence?
Answer: A large, bright, gaseous feature extending outward from the Sun's surface, often in a loop.
Question: How do the elements in the sun work together?
Answer: They just react resulting in heat and other elements/compounds.
Question: Where do the elements in the outer layers of the sun come from?
Answer: From the inner layers or from atmosphere, especially when atmospheric elements are made to react on the surface of the sun.
© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores
Gibbet on December 09, 2019:
This is a very good explanation of the structure of the earth it helped me alot with my geography thank you ever so much
Ramya on October 28, 2019:
It helps in my brother’s project
angela on March 26, 2018:
wow it helps alot for my research thank u very much
email@example.com on February 05, 2018:
an interesting article which provides me enough information
malik khan on September 27, 2017:
very useful article , it has ADDED MUCH IN MY KNOWLEDGE, NOW I KNOW QUITE A LOT ABOUT MY STAR SUN THANKS
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on May 02, 2015:
Thank you Venkatachari M.
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 01, 2015:
Very interesting article. You have given a detailed account of the various layers and features of Sun here.