Nowadays, the fact the Earth revolved around the Sun is common scientific knowledge. Before the findings of Galileo and Copernicus in the 1500s, most people believed that the rest of the solar system actually revolved around the Earth. Although Nicolaus Copernicus made his theory in 1543, it took years and years for this to be accepted by the masses.
However, other scientists and astronomers had made similar theories in the years past. An Indian philosopher, Yajnavalkya, recorded such a heliocentric theory as far back as the 9th Century BCE. Greek philosophers Aristarchus and Archimedes both made mention of similar theories in 310 BC or earlier. Throughout the years, the Sun has been much more than just a star in the sky. The Sun has been an object of worship, and an object of fear, and the source of all life on Earth. While it is technically a ball of hydrogen, plasma, and helium- it’s definitely much more than that. The Sun is an interesting part of life on Earth, even though it is millions of miles away from the planet.
Much of the scientific knowledge now accepted about the Sun has been discovered relatively recently, including some incredible and unbelievable facts. In the end, the Sun is the crowning jewel of our solar system, and the one thing holding all of the planets, stars, and asteroids around Earth in one cohesive system. It’s not just essential for us humans here on this planet, but also for the rest of the planets in the solar system.
10The Sun Is a Star
The Sun is quite unique to us down here on Earth, but the truth is that it is technically just another star- of which there are billions and trillions in the universe. The Sun is classified as a Yellow Dwarf star or G2V. This classification includes stars that are between 5,300 and 6,000 K on their surface. This is how the surface temperature of stars is measured. This kind of star also has well-documented stages and life cycles. The sun is considered to be in the middle of its lifespan.
Scientists and astronomers believe that there may be around a trillion stars similar to the Sun in the Milky Way, our galaxy. Another classification that the Sun falls under is Population I. This means a star that is mostly made up of heavier elements. In the case of our Sun, it’s made of about 70% hydrogen. Stars are balls of hot gas, and the rest of the Sun is made of helium and small amounts of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, neon, iron, sulfur, magnesium, and silicon.
Interestingly enough, the reason for the Sun’s Population I classification is because older stars exploded, creating supernovae. The Sun actually contains all of these elements from a handful of previous stars. Many children believe that the Sun is a planet before they learn otherwise, and this is actually far from the truth. The Sun is wildly different from a planet, especially a rocky planet like Earth. It would be absolutely impossible to step foot onto the surface of the Sun- it’s all gas.
9The Sun Is Not That Big
The Sun is really massive in some ways but really tiny in other ways. Size is relative in most contexts, but this is an especially important consideration when discussing astronomy. The Earth is tiny in the grand scheme of our galaxy, yet it is quite massive to us humans who are here living on it. Compared to Earth, the Sun is enormous- almost too big to fathom. Over a million planet Earths could be fit inside the space of the Sun.
Not to mention, the Sun is the biggest object in our entire solar system. It is responsible for most of the mass in the solar system, 99.86%, even though there are also 8 other planets. Interestingly enough, the shape of the Sun is a perfect sphere- or, at least the closest thing to a perfect sphere that has ever been observed in nature. The radius of the star is a whopping 696,000 kilometers. 109 Earths could be lined up around the surface of the Sun.
However, on the other hand, the Sun is actually quite small compared to some other stars and objects outside of our solar system. Considering the sizes of other stars in the Milky Way, the Sun can only be considered a medium-sized star. NASA even says that they have found stars over 100 times bigger than our Sun- that’s an unbelievable amount bigger than our tiny little Earth! However, scientists also explain that it’s very difficult to get a measure of the exact size of the star.
8The Sun Won’t Last Forever
It may be difficult to think about, but the fact is that the Sun is about halfway through its lifespan. Although we depend on the Sun for survival, it’s not going to be there forever. Scientists are sure that the Sun will eventually reach a typical Yellow Dwarf end, thus causing an end to life on Earth. However, this isn’t going to happen for quite some time, so we don’t have to worry just yet.
Essentially, since stars are balls of gas, they die once the gas runs out. The gas powers intense nuclear fusion in the core of a star, keeping it burning and lit up for millions of years. When the Sun runs out of hydrogen to power it, it will finally reach the end of its life cycle. When this happens, the Sun will not simply cease to exist. Rather, it will begin a transformation into a red giant star.
First, the core of the Sun will collapse when the hydrogen runs out. Then, the core will begin to burn up the hydrogen of the Sun itself and begin to swell and become much bigger. Thus, the death of the Sun is actually not at all what it seems. Scientists predict that this massive swell as the Sun turns into a red giant star will swallow up at least Mercury and Venus- possibly even Earth. Luckily, the entire process of transformation will not be taking place for quite some time. It won’t happen for at least another 5 billion years.
7The Sun Generates Many Things
The Sun is the reason why life is possible at all on Earth. From plants to animals to us humans, none of it would be feasible without the many things that the Sun provides us. Many people assume that this only includes sunlight and heat, but there are actually many things that we earthlings can thank the Sun for. In fact, it’s the only reason that we are able to survive on this planet.
Sunlight and heat are the two main things that the Sun provides life on Earth. These are often things that we take for granted. Without the heat from the Sun, Earth would be far too cold to sustain life. Keep in mind that outer space is far below freezing. Sunlight is a part of this warmth, and it’s also a key factor in photosynthesis for plants. Not to mention, sunlight is good for humans as it helps us absorb plenty of vitamin D. The UV rays from the Sun are able to accomplish all of this, but there is also plenty of radiation that never reaches the ground. Earth’s atmosphere keeps us safe from gamma rays, X-rays, and ultraviolet rays.
Another thing that the Sun provides is a massive magnetic and energetic field. The Sun has a huge mass which in turn creates a huge magnetic pull. Solar flares, atomic flare fluctuations, and other events that happen on the Sun can have a huge influence on Earth’s magnetic field. Things like radio communications, power lines, and even oil flow can be affected by changes on the Sun.
6The Sun Causes the Northern Lights
The Sun supports life, but it also provides some extra beauty. From sunrises to sunsets to eclipses, the Sun is one of the most photographed things ever. However, many people don’t know that Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, are also a result of the Sun’s light and energy. It’s surprising to hear that the Sun, millions of miles away in space, can have an impact on something seemingly so small on Earth. But, the fact is that Earth is governed fairly strictly by the Sun.
When storms take place all the way on the Sun, this is actually what causes the Northern Lights. The storms on the Sun are nothing like we can imagine here on Earth. The intensity of the solar storms shoots plenty of solar particles across space. If these particles happen to hit Earth, the atmosphere and magnetic fields both react. Since the particles coming from the Sun are charged, they cause a reaction from particles here on Earth.
The particles start to bump into the particles on Earth and cause them to react by lighting up. The technical term for this is that the atoms get excited. The hit from charged solar particles causes the electrons to move around and get excited, creating light. Interestingly enough, the Northern Lights look nothing like sunlight. Plus, they’re only visible from cold countries in the North- not something we usually tend to associate with the Sun. However, they are directly caused by activities happening each day on the Sun.
5The Sun Influenced Mythology and Religion
The Sun is a major component of life on Earth, we know that much. Nowadays, research and astrological information have been able to detail the many ways that we depend on the Sun. However, even before all of this information was available, ancient cultures seemed to have a definite understanding of the Sun’s importance. One thing is common throughout a number of cultures, no matter how far apart or otherwise different they may be- a reverence for the Sun.
Many cultures have what is called a solar deity in their mythology or religions. A solar deity is a god or goddess associated with the Sun. They are usually related to strength or power and sometimes represented by the Greek word Helios or the Latin word Sol. For example, in Greek mythology, the God of the Sun is named Helios. In Aztec mythology, they called the sun god Tonatiuh and considered him to be the leader of heaven. Many South American cultures like the Aztecs and the Mayans lived by the Sun, creating calendars and structures that lined up with the Sun’s movement and light.
Later in Roman history, a religion called solar monotheism arose when people began to worship only deities who had solar traits. One of the very first monotheistic religions in history, Atenism, was known to worship the Sun directly in Egypt. It is quite common to have gods and idols be adorned with solar qualities and be viewed in relation to the Sun, as well as other planets and astronomical objects.
4The Sun Has Many Layers
The Sun is a ball of gas, but it’s not quite that simple. In fact, scientists have been able to observe specific layers that the Sun is made up of. These layers are so definite that they are even able to move around at different speeds and are each made up of different gases. There are a total of six layers that make up the Sun as we see it from here on Earth. Although it looks like one solid ball of light, it’s actually a bunch of different things mixed up in one.
The first and innermost layer is the core of the Sun. This is the largest layer of the Sun, and where the fusion takes place that powers the entire star. The core is the most important part of the Sun, and that is where all the heat and light are produced that we depend on so dearly.
The next layer above the core is called the radiative zone. After the radiative zone comes to the convective zone and then the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona. The radiative zone reaches nearly all the way to the surface, and this is the first place the heat and light of the Sun go after being generated in the core. Although it takes less than 10 minutes for the Sun’s light and heat to reach Earth, it takes years and years for that same light and heat to travel from the core to the surface of the Sun- most of those years are spent bouncing around the radiative zone.
3Humans Have Been Able to Closely Observe the Sun
Although astronomy is a relatively new field, massive advances have been made since its advent. People only accepted heliocentric theories in the late 1600s, and nowadays we have close-up photos of the Sun and a pretty good understanding of the star. In fact, there are even many satellites that have been created just to look at the Sun. Solar research is one of the most important fields in astronomy. While we can constantly explore more and more of space and look at other planets- it’s essential to attempt understanding the Sun since it is the source of all life on Earth.
The Sun and the Moon were the two main focuses of space research right from the beginning of its development. This is increasingly important as Earth develops more and more technologies and space-based technologies. Since the weather of space is determined and affected by the Sun, this tech is at the mercy of the Sun’s storms and flares. Although there are many spacecraft and satellites dedicated to studying the Sun, they all have to consider the Sun and deal with the Sun’s radiation, no matter what their mission in space is.
Space missions are constantly aiming to get a better look at the Sun and a better understanding of the massive star. However, because of the Sun’s intense heat and gravity, it’s difficult to get close enough, even with a satellite. Some of the best observations of the Sun to date are made by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, launched back in 1995.
2Our Calendar Is Based On the Sun
There are two major types of calendars in history- solar calendars and lunar calendars. As the names clearly suggest, one is based on the movement and cycles of the Sun while the other is based on the movement and cycles of the Moon. Lunar calendars were used more often in ancient civilizations, and they are still used in systems like the Chinese Zodiac. However, most of the world has moved on to live by a solar calendar.
The Gregorian calendar, which most of the world abides by nowadays, is called a tropical solar calendar. This type of calendar has seasons synchronized with the decline of the Sun and includes 365 days along with an additional day occasionally on a leap year. Other tropical solar calendars include the Bengali calendar and the Iranian calendar.
There are other types of solar calendars called sidereal solar calendars, and these fix the position of the Earth to other stars. This means that the seasons are based on constellations near the Sun and not the decline of the Sun itself. Such calendars include the Hindu calendar as well as the Thai solar calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the most common form of the solar calendar, and it was introduced by the Pope back in 1582. It was based on the older Julian calendar but added leap years to account for the drift caused by equinoxes. When the Church decided to adopt a Gregorian calendar, October 4th, 1582 skipped directly to October 15th, 1582 to account for the change.
1The Sun Isn’t What It Looks Like
The way the human eye perceives the Sun is influenced by a number of different factors. First of all, the ability of our own eyes- we can’t see everything on the light spectrum. Second of all, the atmosphere of Earth and the sheer distance between us and the star that supports our life. Many researchers have pointed out that the Sun isn’t quite what it looks like or what we perceive it to be.
What we actually see of the Sun is only its outer layer. It appears as a bright ball of light, somewhere between white, yellow, and orange depending on when we are viewing it. However, we are seeing the Sun from a very far distance, through space, through the Earth’s atmosphere, and through our own quite fallible eyes. NASA has released a video of what the surface of the Sun actually looks like, and it’s quite different than what we may imagine by looking at it.
The Sun, up close, appears like a bright yellow blazing fire of constantly moving solar materials. Keep in mind, the Sun’s gasses are constantly infusion, so this creates an intense movement on the star. However, it looks less like lava and more like bright clouds of light because of the gaseous state of the star. In reality, the Sun isn’t really yellow, orange, or red. It’s technically all colors and light mixed together. In space, the human eye perceives this as totally white. This also explains the existence of rainbows, which are visible when sunlight is separated into its actual colors.
Without a doubt, the Sun is one of the most interesting things in our solar system. Without it, the Earth and all the planets around us would likely be wildly different- if they were able to exist at all. Not only is the Sun necessary in this practical matter, but it also governs most aspects of human life. Consider all of the plants we eat, that are able to grow thanks to photosynthesis and the light of the Sun.
Not to mention, the circadian rhythms of our waking up and going to sleep- largely based on the sunrises and sunsets that we witness here on Earth. And, most of the world abide by some sort of solar calendar. Many of our seasons and dates are based on the position of the Sun in the sky.
The discovery that the solar system revolved around the Sun is seen by many as the launching point of modern astronomy, and it’s definitely one of the most important discoveries ever to be made. At the time of his death in 1543, Copernicus even used his last words to explain his belief that the Sun was the center of the solar system. His last words were said to be “In the center of all rests the Sun. For who would place this lamp of a very beautiful temple in another or better place than this from which it can illuminate everything at the same time”? However, it wasn’t until Isaac Newton was able to prove and outline his theory in 1688 that Copernicus was eventually proven right.