The topic of a solar flash relates to the behavior of the Sun. Descriptions of the Sun and its activity include the following general terminology.
- Star — A luminous ball of gas (mostly hydrogen and helium) held together by its own gravity. The temperature and pressures at the core of a star are great enough to sustain nuclear fusion. (Universe Today)
- Gravity — The natural force by which a planet, star or other body attracts objects toward its center. (Example: gravity keeps planets in orbit around the sun.)
- Fusion — The joining of things (fusing) to create a single entity.
- Nuclear Fusion — Atoms (basic units of matter) coming together to make bigger ones.
- Nuclear Fission (in contrast) — Atoms being split.
- Exothermic Reaction — Processes (creating a change in state or chemical constitution) that give off heat.
- Endothermic Reaction (in contrast) — Processes that require heat. (Example: heat is required to boil water and convert it into a gas.)
- Ionization — The process whereby atoms or molecules acquire a positive or negative electrical charge from gaining or losing electrons. An ion is a charged atom or molecule.
- Plasma — A state of matter (along with solid, liquid and gas). Plasma makes up the sun and stars and is the most common state of matter in the universe as a whole. Similar to gases, plasmas have no fixed shape or volume, but unlike gas which is neutral, plasma is charged. (Live Science)
About the Sun: Overview
- The Sun is the closest star to Earth. It provides energy for life forms on Earth to survive and thrive.
- “The sun is a big ball of gas and plasma. Most of the gas is hydrogen… Astronomers who have studied the composition of the sun have catalogued 67 chemical elements in the sun. There may be more, but in amounts too small for instruments to detect.” (Space.com)
- The Sun’s mass is approximately 71% hydrogen, 27% helium and 1% oxygen.
- The remaining 1% includes carbon, nitrogen, silicon, magnesium, neon, iron and sulfur.1 (Space.com)
- In the innermost layer of the Sun, fusion is taking place, converting hydrogen into helium. This exothermic reaction gives off the heat we experience on Earth.
- The surface of the Sun is covered in magnetic fields, the same force that makes magnets stick to a refrigerator door.
About The Sun’s Layers
- The Sun has several layers categorized as inner and outer layers.
- The inner layers are the core, the radiative zone and the convection zone.
- The innermost layer (“the heart of the Sun”) is called the core, where the temperatures and pressures are high enough to sustain fusion.
- The outer layers include the surface of the Sun and the gases that surround it, called its atmosphere.
- The outer layers are the photosphere, the chromosphere, the transition region and the corona. (NASA)
- The photosphere includes the visible surface of the sun and it gives off the yellow-white light that we see from Earth. (Universe Today)
- The corona is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere and although it is far from the Sun’s surface, it burns at more than a million degrees — hundreds of times hotter than the Sun’s surface. (The New York Times)
A Conflicting View
The information above is the typical, mainstream view of the sun. However, in this video, a scientist challenges this prevailing view of the sun’s core.
The Earth is powered by nuclear fusion happening inside the Sun… Almost everything you’re doing right now (from breathing in and out to tapping away on your computer) and everything you can see around you (trees blowing, grass growing, and cars speeding by your window) is powered by nuclear fusion—because that’s what drives the Sun, and the Sun drives the Earth. If you could get close enough to the Sun to peer inside its core… you’d see atoms of hydrogen joining together (“fusing”) to make atoms of helium, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process. Apart from making incredible amounts of heat inside the Sun itself (the core is… at least 10 million degrees), the Sun’s nuclear fusion also produces the solar energy that streams out across 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) of space, sustaining pretty much all the life we see on Earth.– Explainthatstuff.com
The Sun’s Core Temperature
In the sun’s core, gravitational forces create tremendous pressure and temperatures. The temperature of the sun in this layer is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). Hydrogen atoms are compressed and fuse together, creating helium. This process is called nuclear fusion. As the gases heat up, atoms break apart into charged particles, turning the gas into plasma.– Space.com
The Sun’s Plasma
As all stars are, the Sun is a hot ball of gas made up mostly of hydrogen. The Sun is so hot that most of the gas is actually plasma, the fourth state of matter… This is not the same type of plasma that is found in your blood: same name, different stuff. The Sun’s plasma is so hot that the most energetic charged particles can escape from the Sun’s gravity and fly away, out into space. We call this plasma the solar wind because it blows out away from the Sun and past the planets, interacting with their magnetic fields and/or atmospheres. Along with the solar wind comes the Sun’s magnetic field, which reaches from the Sun out to past Pluto and Neptune.– NASA
Plasma Phenomena on Earth
Plasma consists of electrically charged particles. Familiar plasma phenomena on Earth today include lightning and auroras, the northern and southern lights, and upper atmospheric phenomena known as sprites. In the past, much more powerful plasma events sometimes took place, due to solar outbursts and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun, or possibly emissions from other celestial objects. Powerful plasma phenomena could cause strong electrical discharges to hit Earth, burning and incinerating materials on our planet’s surface.– Robert M. Schoch
Why it Matters & Resources
See here for Why it Matters and a list of sources and resources for the entire Solar Flash section.
- This article notes the importance of the fact that various types of measurements give different results when measuring the sun’s “metallicity.”