This X 10^5 km, which is about 109

This lesson will go over what the three layers of our sun’s atmosphere are, the sun’s surface temperature, chemical composition, radius, and distance from Earth.

The Sun’s Atmosphere

Have you ever wanted to visit the sun? Well not only is that a bad idea, but you’d also have a lot of exploring to do.First, you’d need to travel about 1.496 X 10^8 km, the average distance from the Earth to the sun. That means it’ll take you something like eight or nine months to reach the sun if traveling as fast as the space shuttle in orbit.Once you reach the sun, you’ll first have to go through the solar atmosphere, the corona, chromosphere, and photosphere, before going through the interior and out the other side.

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From Earth, you cannot see the corona or chromosphere with your naked eye unless there’s a solar eclipse. Neither should you try to look for them by the way, lest you want to fry your eyes for good. The visible portion of the sun, giving us all that light, and the one you shouldn’t be looking at either, is the photosphere.Anyways, what I’m trying to say here is that if you really want to visit the sun, get some really heavy-duty shades or else you’ll go blind. And how are you supposed to explore anything if you’re blind?

Temperature and Radius

It’s also a bad idea to visit the sun because it has a surface temperature of 5800 K. That’s roughly equal to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck with that.

But let’s say that you have some crazy advanced space suit or spaceship that can withstand the heat, and you still want to explore the sun. I don’t think you’d live long enough to get very far. This is because the radius of the sun is 6.96 X 10^5 km, which is about 109 times greater than Earth.Even if you were to travel at the speed of light, the interior of the sun is so dense, that it takes light itself thousands of years to escape the sun! I’d check with a doctor before leaving on your trip to the sun to see what they have to say about how many years you have left to live.

The Composition of the Sun

But ok, ok. Let’s say you’ve got the shades, the super-heat resistant spacesuit, and your name is Methuselah.

Now that you’ve reached the sun, surely, your voyage must be a scientific one. You know, NASA came before space tourism. This means you’ll likely be tasked with ultra-boring experiments that try and back up what we already know about the sun.

Like, the sun is made up of a lot of different atoms. Hydrogen makes up 91% and helium makes up 8.9% of the number of atoms in the sun. They also make up 70.9% and 27.4% of the mass of the elements that make up the sun, respectively.

Other elements, found in very small quantities that help round out the composition of the sun include carbon, iron, magnesium, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, and sulfur.I don’t want you to go crazy remembering all of them as you’ve got enough to worry about when visiting the sun. All I want you to know is the answer to the following question: what are the most abundant elements in the sun? The answer is hydrogen first and helium a far second.To help you remember this point, you should know that the technical combining word for the sun is helio.

Knowing this, the answer to my prior question is obvious, the first letter is H for hydrogen and the second letter with the first is He for helium.

Lesson Summary

I’m not sure if you still want to travel to the sun or not but what I’m sure of is we need to review some stuff. You’d need to travel 1.496 X 10^8 km, the average distance from the Earth to the sun, in order to reach the sun.To get to the solar interior, you’d have to go through the solar atmosphere, the corona, chromosphere, and photosphere and be able to withstand temperatures of 5800 K, the surface temperature of the sun.

Once at the sun, you’d find out that its chemical composition is mainly hydrogen and helium.

Learning Outcomes

As you complete this lesson on the sun, measure your ability to do these things:

  • Note the distance from the Earth to the sun
  • Name the layers of the sun
  • Write the temperature and radius of the sun
  • Point out the dominant helio elements of the sun and list some of the minor ones
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