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Introduction to Solar System Part 1


The Sun: Our Extraordinary Ordinary Star

Filaments Across the Sun

Bulk Properties of the Sun

Mass Density

109 Earth Diameters

333,000 Earth Masses 1408 kg/m3

Rotation Periods
Surface Temp.

Equatorial: 25 Days
Polar: 35 Days 5800 K

Core Temp.

15,500,000 K

Limb Darkening

The sun is not as bright near the limb as it is in the center. Also it is more yellow, indicating that we are looking through cooler layers near the limb than at the center. This is because we see deeper into the photosphere when we look straight down than when we look obliquely.

Explanation of Limb Darkening

The Suns Atmosphere

The photosphere is the visible layer of the Sun.

The chromosphere is a mostly cooler layer that lies just above the photosphere. This region creates the Suns absorption line spectrum.
The transition region is a thin region above the chromosphere, where the temperature rises rapidly from about 10,000 K to a million K. The corona is the Suns outer atmosphere. The temperature of the corona is 1 to 2 million K. The corona extends several times the diameter of the Sun.

Photosphere showing Solar Granulation

Solar Granulation

High-resolution photographs of the Suns surface reveal a blotchy pattern, called granulation. Granules, which measure about 1000 km across, are convection cells in the Suns photosphere.

Solar Granulation Video 10

Spicules and Supergranules in the Chromosphere

Supergranules are regions of rising and falling gas, spanning hundreds of granules


The Solar Corona



The Active Sun

Sunspots and the Sunspot Cycle Solar Magnetism and the Solar Cycle Other Atmospheric Phenomena

Plages Active Regions Prominences Filaments Coronal Holes Flares Coronal Mass Ejections



Sunspots are typically about 10,000 km in diameter about the size of the Earth. They have a dark central umbra surrounded by a grayish, structured penumbra. They appear dark only by comparison to the brighter surrounding photosphere. They are cooler regions of the photosphere. The temperature of the umbra is about 4500 K and that of the penumbra is about 5000 K.

A large group of sunspots typically lasts about 50 days.

Galileo determined the Suns rotation period by timing the movement of sunspots. The Sun rotates in 25.4 days at the equator and in 33 days in the polar region.

Motion of Sunspots Video


The Sunspot Cycle


Solar Magnetism

Sunspots are directly linked to intense magnetic fields on the Sun. When atoms are in magnetic fields, their spectrum lines are split into two or more lines on each side of the central line. This is called the Zeeman effect. The strong magnetic field in sunspots lowers their temperature by interfering with the convective flow of hot gas toward the surface. Sunspots usually come in pairs with the magnetic field coming out of one member of the pair and going in at the other member. In opposite hemispheres, sunspot pairs are reversed in their polarity. Solar Cycle: The 11-year sunspot cycle is the solar cycle. In alternate sunspot cycles, the Suns magnetic field reverses direction causing the polarity of the sunspots to reverse.


Zeeman Splitting of Spectrum Lines


Magnetic Field Lines and Sunspot Pairs


Effect of Suns Differential Rotation on its Magnetic Field


Other Atmospheric Phenomena

Plages brighter (hotter) areas in chromosphere

Filaments dark streaks above the chromosphere. Huge volumes of gas uplifted into the corona
Prominences filaments viewed from the side Coronal Holes darker (cooler) areas in corona, visible in X-rays, where gases easily can escape from the Sun Flares violent eruptive events seen in UV & X-rays Coronal Mass Ejections huge, balloon-shaped volumes of highenergy gas being ejected


Solar Prominences

Prominences and the Corona photographed during the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991, near sunspot maximum


Active Sun in H


A Solar Prominence from SOHO




X-ray picture of a Coronal Hole


UV picture of a Solar Flare


A Coronal Mass Ejection


The Suns Composition

The main elements are hydrogen and helium, as in the gas giant planets and in other stars and nebulae in the universe.

Element Hydrogen, H Helium, He Others

by Atoms 92% 8% 0.1%

by Mass 74% 25% 1%

This data is needed for the homework.


Main Regions of the Sun


The Suns Interior

The Standard Solar Model. Is a mathematical model of the Sun, made by combining all available observations with theoretical insight into solar physics. This model shows that the Suns interior has three major regions, listed from outside to inside. Convection Zone. This zone extends downwards from the photosphere about 200,000 km. The material is in constant convective motion. Radiation Zone. Below the convection zone and extending to the core, is the radiation zone, where energy is transported toward the surface by radiation rather than by convection. Core. The central core, about 200,000 km in radius, is the site of the nuclear reactions that generate the Suns enormous energy output.


Density & Temperature Profiles of the Suns Interior


The Suns Source of Energy

Solar Constant is 1400 W/m2.

Luminosity of the Sun is 1400 W/m2 4 (1 AU)2 = 41026 W.

The Conversion of Mass to Energy: Mass and energy are related through Einsteins equation E = mc2. Solar Energy from Nuclear Fusion, the combining of light nuclei into heavier ones. The sum of the masses of the light nuclei is a little greater than the mass of the heavier nucleus that is formed. The Sun gets its energy from the Proton-Proton Chain, fusing 4 hydrogen atoms into 1 helium atom.


The Proton-Proton Chain

Hydrogen to Helium Animation 34

How Energy Gets from the Suns Core to Its Surface part 1

Radiative Transfer.

In the central regions of the Sun, the temperature is so hot that all the electrons are stripped from the nuclei. Thus there are no bound electrons to move from one state to another, absorbing radiation. This region is relatively transparent to radiation, allowing energy to flow out freely. Radiation diffuses slowly outward in a haphazard zigzag pattern, taking about 170,000 years on the average to go from the core to the bottom of the convective zone.


How Energy Gets from the Suns Core to Its Surface part 2

Convective Transfer. As the temperature drops outside the inner core, atoms can retain some electrons. This causes the gas to become more and more opaque to radiation. The energy must still get out, but since the radiation is blocked, convection begins and carries the energy away to the surface. This takes about 10 days to reach the photosphere. Convection Cells. In the deep solar interior they are thought to be large, perhaps 30,000 km across. At higher levels the convection cells are smaller, about 1000 km across just below the photosphere.


Solar Neutrinos

Neutrinos are ghostly particles with no charge and having an immeasurably small mass. They go through matter like it isnt there. Therefore they are very difficult to detect. Solar neutrinos are going from the Sun through the Earth and through your body right now roughly 100 billion of them per square centimeter each second.


Sound waves resonating within the solar interior cause the photosphere to move in and out, rhythmically distorting the shape of the Sun. This heaving motion can be described as the superposition of millions of oscillations, like the one shown here.

Rising Gasses

Descending Gasses

Sound waves inside the Sun, like seismic waves in the Earth, are refracted back out. The Suns surface reflects waves back in. How deep a wave penetrates, and how far around the Sun it goes before it hits the surface depends on its wavelength.



Summary of Key Ideas

Know and Understand:

The size of the Sun compared with Earth and its surface temperature The regions of the Suns atmosphere The nature of sunspots and the sunspot cycle Where and how the Sun gets its energy The regions of the Suns Interior