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# Nuclear Reactions in the Sun Providing Light and Heat for Earth

The sun is a star. It is the largest object in our solar system and one of the larger stars in our galaxy.
The source of energy in the Sun is at its core where hydrogen is converted to helium in a
thermonuclear reaction. This process is called NUCLEAR FUSION. This energy travels from the
core to the surface of the Sun and is released into space primarily as light. The energy that comes to
the Earth is in 2 main forms, heat and light.

Every hour, enough sunlight energy reaches the Earth to meet the worlds energy
demand for a whole year.
--- U.S. Department of Energy --The amount of energy from the Sun that reaches the Earth annually is 4 x 1018 Joules.***
The amount of energy consumed annually by the world's population is about 3 x 1014 Joules.
A joule is unit of energy equal to about 1/3600 of a watt/hour.

## Speed of Light Energy from the Sun to Earth.

The earth is the third planet from the sun at a distance of about 93,000,000 (93 million) miles. If you
could pitch a fast baseball to the sun at 100 miles per hour (mph) it would take the ball over 100 years
to get there. On the other hand, it only takes light energy 8 minutes to reach the earth from the
surface of the sun, traveling at the speed of light of course.

## Light Energy traveling to Earth***

The speed of light is equal to about 11,000,000 (11 million) miles/ minute.
93,000,000 miles 11,000,000 miles/ minute
= 8.45 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to Earth.
***Calculations are rounded for simplicity.

The Sun is the source of most of the energy on Earth--the power source for plants, the cause of flows
of atmosphere and of water, the source of the warmth which makes life possible. None would exist
without it. At the Earth's orbit, neglecting absorption by the atmosphere, each square meter of area
facing the Sun receives about 1380 joules per second (nearly 2 horsepower). That quantity is known
as the solar constant.

Summary:
The heating of the Earth at any location is related to the angle of the sun
in the sky.
Only a small percentage of light energy from the sun that hits the Earth
produces heat energy on Earth.
Light energy from the sun is absorbed by the Earths surface and changed
into heat energy. The heat energy radiates out and heats the air above.
Some molecules (e.g., carbon dioxide) in the air absorb this heat energy
and radiate some of it back to the Earths surface, making the Earth warm
enough to support life (the greenhouse effect).
The color of the Earths surface affects the amount of heat that the Earth
absorbs. Many Earth surfaces reflect light energy away from the Earth.
Due to these reflective properties of many Earth surfaces large amounts
of light energy are reflected and cannot be used directly as heat energy.