Our Sun, the star

Our Sun, the star

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

Our star, the sun, is on average, 92.957 million miles from the Earth. After that, the closest star is 26 trillion miles away. If conditions are right, you can see 6,000 stars with the naked eye. However, we know there’s a lot more out there, thanks to all the large telescopes mankind possesses. By studying those tiny points of light in space, we have been able to detect 10 billion galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has at least 200 billion stars, so just think how many stars must be in the universe.

Everything we know about stars is based on spectroscopy, which is the analysis of light and other radiation. What is a star? A star is a large ball of gas in space whose own weight pushing inward ignites the gas. The burning of the gas inside the ball sends a pushing force outward equal to the force coming in, thus forming an equilibrium. The star burns until the fuel runs out, which can be billions of years, depending on the size of the star. Larger stars burn hotter, brighter and faster, while smaller stars burn cooler, dimmer and slower—longer for the most part. Our sun is a moderate-sized star that is 4.5 billion years old and should burn for another 4-6 billion years. It should be noted that there are exceptions to the bigger, hotter, brighter star format or main sequence stars, as they are called. White dwarf stars are no bigger than Earth; yet they are much hotter than the sun. Conversely, red giant and most super-giant stars are usually no warmer than the sun, but their tremendous size, which can be 1,000 times the radius of the sun, makes them 1,000 times brighter.

Our sun has a diameter of 865,000 miles. Its density is about 1.5 times that of water, and its mass is estimated at 200 million, trillion trillion times. The sun’s surface temp is nearly 11,000 degrees F., while its core is 27 million degrees F.

Without the sun, we would not exist. The sun holds our planet and all other planets in our solar system in orbit. The sun has heated our world ever since it ignited. Heat from the sun helped create Earth’s atmosphere, and the sun’s heat created the winds which make the weather, which made most of the water. The sun, weather and water accelerated chemical evolution on Earth, which gave rise to primitive life and the perpetual machine of life evolution. Life evolution produced plants which are fed by the sun, and plants exhale oxygen in a manner of speaking, which made the evolution of the animal kingdom possible.

Here we are at the top of the animal kingdom, and the sun ball is in our court, so to speak. We should, for selfish and unselfish reasons, harness the sun’s energy clearly and directly instead of burning oil and coal, which pollute the air and spoil the land.

Our technology has evolved to the point of using direct sunlight to energize our homes and businesses. However, solar technology needs to evolve a little farther because solar power equipment is expensive, but it does pay for itself in time. Besides, if plants can evolve to use direct sunlight, why can’t we? Aren’t humans smarter than vegetables? Arguably so, anyway.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

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