January 27, 2023

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Secrets of the sun's interior.  What hides the center of our star and what awaits it?

Secrets of the sun’s interior. What hides the center of our star and what awaits it?

Many probably remember the scene of the American comedy “Calm down, it’s just a breakdown …” from 1982, in which, as a result of a combination of events, the heroes fly straight into the sun. We can tell by the fact that she gets a little hot and sweats profusely. Surprisingly, the spacecraft does not crash or burn at all, despite being so close to the star with its occupants. To reveal the finale of the story, the heroes will be able to bravely turn the ship and land on a space station on the moon.

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This is the reality of the movie, but can any man reach the crown of the sun in the real world? This is doubtful, unless technologies had been invented by that time to protect us from the crushing million Kelvin that reigns in the sun’s corona. At this point, we are only studying our nearest star “at a distance”, which does not mean that we know so little about it.

Sun structure / Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Inside the Sun – How hot is the inside?

Before we look at the individual layers that build our star, let’s get to know the basic facts about it to get a better sense of what a huge thing we’re dealing with. The exact diameter of the Sun is 1,392,684 kilometers, which is 109 times that of the Earth. Interestingly, in the case of mass, the matter is not proportional, since our star is 333,000 times heavier than the “blue planet”.

The percentage of the sun is 99.86%. The mass of the entire solar system and consists almost entirely of two elements – hydrogen and helium. The first is exactly 73.46%, and the second – 24.85%. The remaining composition is composed of metals, which are used in astronomy to describe all elements except hydrogen and helium, that is, in this case, m. Oxygen, carbon and iron.

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The heliocentric is its core, and its limits range from 20-25 percent. The length of the sun’s rays. Like the entire Sun, it is made of plasma and has a density 150 times that of water. The temperature in the center of the Sun is 15 million Kelvin. This is where nuclear fusion takes place, which produces huge amounts of energy. It occurs in the proton cycle, when hydrogen turns into helium. Interestingly, most nuclear fusion takes place in the central part of the nucleus, while almost none in the distal regions.

Behind the Sun’s core is a radiant region, whose boundary is approximately between 25 and 70 percent. The length of the sun’s rays. The temperature in this region is still hot enough that matter is composed only of electrons and ions, as it is in the nucleus. However, following the gradient, the temperature here drops from 7 million K in the core to 2 million K near the next part of our star’s interior, the convective layer.

Sun and Earth “area” for comparison / Source: National Solar Observatory, nso.edu

Above the radiative zone, right up to the very surface of the Sun, there is a convective layer that is no longer so hot, because the temperature here drops to “only” 5700 K. Because of the greater “coldness”, heat transfer through this area is not as efficient. Instead of radiating, the heat causes the material in the convection layer to decrease in density and begin to expand and rise. This results in specific convective cells that carry heat into the photosphere. We can observe these cells from Earth through special telescopes – they look like huge grains. One of the most recent images taken by the National Solar Energy Observatory of the sun’s surface reveals these granular shapes in all their glory.

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The next layer is the photosphere. Here photons are generated, which then crash into the Earth. It is 400 kilometers thick and slightly more transparent than the cleanest air on our planet. Notably, the upper part of the photosphere is cooler and emits less radiation, which causes the sun’s disk to appear darker at the edge – a phenomenon called edge darkening.

Above the photosphere, we have the heliosphere, which also consists of several regions: the lower temperature layer (the region in which there is 4100 K), the chromosphere, the transition layer, the corona, which has a temperature of 1-2 million K, and the heliosphere ( Atmosphere of the region with solar wind plasma).

Solar Chromosphere / Source: National Solar Observatory, nso.edu

What future awaits the sun? Then what about the land?

At this point, the Sun is thought to be about halfway through the main sequence of the star’s life. Hydrogen conversion reactions into helium are constantly taking place in the core – every second, up to 4 million tons of matter are used for this, from which a huge amount of energy is generated.

The Sun is estimated to be 4.567 billion years old, and it is suggested that our star will remain on the main sequence for another 5.4 billion years. Only then will it begin to transform into a red giant. Remember, the Earth is about the same age as the Sun. For decades, scientists believed that our star was relatively small and faint compared to many stars in the Milky Way. Research from 2010 confirmed that the sun is about 95 percent brighter. All the stars in our galaxy.

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Plasma arcs connecting regions of opposite magnetic polarity are composed of tiny filaments. Image: Solar Optical Telescope, Hinode Probe, Public Domain

The sun’s luminosity increases as the sun’s rays slowly evolve. The situation will begin to change dramatically when the hydrogen for nuclear transformations is completely depleted. Then the Sun will begin to grow in millions of years to such a size that it can swallow the Earth. However, before that happens, our planet will become completely inhospitable to any form of life.

The sun’s brightness is constantly increasing – over the next billion years it will increase so much that all ocean water will evaporate and the surface of our planet will become dry to the bone. Although this vision does not seem optimistic, it is only a scientific hypothesis, as well as a very distant time perspective. To understand this, it is worth finding out what the Earth looked like a billion years ago – at that time there were only the beginnings of the continents, only primitive, mostly unicellular life forms were developing in the oceans, and you still have to wait 500 million years for the appearance of any plants and animals Sophisticated.. years.

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As we can see, the last billion years brought about a tremendous change on Earth, and the next such period will surely bring no less. Almost everything on our planet, from life to technology, depends on the Sun’s activity — though, paradoxically, we can’t look at it directly.