How Does the Sun Produce Light & Heat Essay

Everybody is aware of the importance of the Sun for the life on Earth, because it gives people heat and light. Deep inside the Sun there is a nuclear fusion reaction and it is the source of the Sun energy. The outer layers of the Sun could be observed from the surface of the Earth thanks to telescopes or aboard spacecraft. The Sun rotates around its axis once in around 27 days, the Earth also rotates. But there is an important difference, as the Sun’s rotation is not uniform and the equator can go around faster in comparison to those regions closer to the poles. “This uneven rotation, coupled with the churning of the upper layers, might well be what produces (by a “dynamo mechanism”, described in a later section) regions of intense magnetic field, seen by observers on the Earth as dark sunspots. A German amateur astronomer, Heinrich Schwabe, noticed around 1850 that the number of such spots rose and fell in an irregular cycle of about 11 years (see figure below, tracking the “sunspot number” for over a century).” (Weiss et. al., 2005). When the cycle comes to its peak, then strong energy is released. Emitting of x-rays and radio bursts lead to movements of plasma clouds, which in their turn produce magnetic storms at the moment of reaching Earth. In some cases the releases are also considered responsible for production of ions, passing to the interplanetary space and obit of the Earth. The Sun plays significant role for securing life on the Earth, producing heat and energy, which has impact upon humans, plants and animals on our planet.

The scientists, who lived and worked in the 18th and 19th centuries, in other words during the period, when there was not electricity yet, tried to develop their understanding of the Sun’s energy with the help of building analogy with a fire. When some materials are burnt, for example wood or carbon, then there is a chemical reaction between these materials and the oxygen in the air. If there is no information about the chemicals of the Sun, then it was logical to assume that there was also a kind of chemical reaction taking place, the result of which is heat production, keeping the Sun hot. Then there was an important question, related to the amount of the chemicals, as when they are used, then the reaction of burning was supposed to stop, similar to a log in the fire, when it burns out, then the fire can not continue burning. The scientists of the nineteenth century also were convinced that the Earth was around 100 millions years or little more. They were able to make only approximate calculations on the basis of the depositing of salt to the sea for example or marine sediment depositing into the current continents. Taking into consideration the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun, it is evident that our planet could not be older than the Sun and thus the representation of the Sun in a form of chemical fire was not considered tenable any more.  Later scientists moved further in their research of the sources of the Sun’s energy and heat.

During a total eclipse the bright face of the Sun is covered with the moon and it is possible to see the fainter outer layers. The Sun’s corona is made up of the reddish chromosphere and the space above it. It seems that the streamers are formed by the magnetic field lines of the Sun. The Sun also has the twin magnetic poles similar to those of the Earth and there are field lines rising from them. The source of the heat of the Sun is hidden deep inside of it and there was an assumption that the temperature should decrease the further the layer is from the central furnace. However, in reality this is not so, because the visible face of the Sun has the temperature of 6000 deg. C. The Sun’s corona is situated several thousand kilometers higher and its temperature is a million degrees.

Due to the extremely high temperature of the Sun’s corona, the Sun’s gravity can not keep it. Thus the upper fringes are able to flow in various directions, forming a constant stream of particles, which is called solar wind. The speed of this weed is 400 km/sec. Within 4-5 days this wind is able to reach the Earth. “As the solar wind leaves the corona, it picks up the local magnetic field–contributed by sunspots and by the Sun’s magnetic poles–and drags its field lines into space, forming the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The IMF is quite weak–at the Earth’s orbit, only 1/10,000 of the field at the Earth’s surface–but as shown in a later section, it exerts an extraordinary influence on the Earth’s magnetosphere.” (Weiss et. al., 2005).

If there were no Sun’s heat, then people would have to keep a fire burning during day and night, because it would be much colder on the Earth. But low temperature is not the only potential problem in this case. Food also depends upon the Sun’s heat and without it plants would not grow, as the process of photosynthesis is possible only with participation of the Sun. The food scarcity would cause a lot of serious problems for humans and animals on the Earth. At the same time the Sun’s energy has strong impact upon the weather on our planet, participating in the processes of evaporation and regulating the water cycle. It is really difficult to build correct assumptions about the way how the Earth would look like, if the Sun did not provide its energy and heat. Thus it is possible to conclude here that the Sun plays vitally important role for the whole life of the Earth. Scientists contributed great efforts into investigating of the ways, how the Sun produces its energy. First of all they studied the Sun’s core. The Earth is made up of rock, water, iron and a number of other natural elements, whereas the Sun consists of mostly hydrogen gas. The only similar feature between the Sun and the Earth in this relation is the fact that the core of both is not the hottest part. In the Sun’s core there is enough heat, but also a great amount of pressure. The hydrogen atoms, which are in the Sun’s core, are so much compressed and heated that they fuse together. With the help of this reaction, which is also known as nuclear fusion, atoms of hydrogen are converted into helium. The by-product of this nuclear fusion, happening in the Sun’s core, is a serious quantity of energy, being released and radiated out. Then this energy moves towards the surface of the Sun and then towards the solar system, situated above it. Sometimes the nuclear fusion reaction, taking place in the Sun’s core is very close to the reaction, which is produced by a strong hydrogen bomb explosion. The reaction in the Sun’s core is more powerful, but the Sun does not explode. “The outward pressure created by the fusion reactions in the Sun’s core are balanced by the inward pressure created by the gravitational force of all the gases that surround the core. Stars can and do collapse or explode if the fusion reactions at their cores become too weak or too strong.” (Smil, 1991). The fact is that the outward and inward pressures of the Sun are in perfect balance, which causes a steady stream of energy produced by it. According to scientific data the Earth gets around two billionth of the total amount of the energy, produced by the Sun. Approximately one third of this energy is reflected back into space with the help of clouds and snow. “A little over 40% warms Earth, while about 25% is used by the water cycle. Winds and ocean currents absorb about 1%, while all the plants on Earth use only about 0.023% for photosynthesis!” (Smil, 1991).

The sun consists of three major parts, including the core, the radiative zone around the core and the convective zone around it. The core makes up to 25 percent, the radiative zone makes around 45 percent of the sun’s radius and finally the convective zone is 30 % of it. Due to the fact that the gravity of the Sun us pulling the mass inwards, there is a strong pressure created. It was already mentioned that this pressure is so strong that it causes nuclear reactions similar to those of nuclear bombs, produced by humans.  The energy here is the source of the various types of light, which are ultraviolet light, visible light and infrared light. Along with this, radio waves, Z-rays and microwaves could also come from the Sun. The atmosphere of the Earth protects humans from the Sun’s radiation and its solar winds, which were previously described.

Overall, at the moment the worldwide scientific progress played an important role for knowing much more about the sources of the Sun’s heat and energy, than a couple of hundreds of years ago, still there is no chance to stop and most luckily our descendants would be able to find out more significant facts about the Sun, its structure and functioning.

References:

Bolton, James (1977). Solar Power and Fuels. Academic Press, Inc

Martin, C. L.; Goswami, D. Yogi (2005). Solar Energy Pocket Reference. International Solar Energy Society.

Science Explained: How Does Our Sun Work? NASA/Goddard/SDO

Smil, Vaclav (1991). General Energetics: Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization. Wiley

Weiss, Werner; Bergmann, Irene; Faninger, Gerhard. “Solar Heat Worldwide (Markets and Contributions to the Energy Supply 2005)” (PDF). International Energy Agency.

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 1, 2020]

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[Accessed: April 1, 2020]