Our lives depend on the sun. We need sunlight to grow the food that we eat, and its warmth makes life on Earth sustainable. Our daily schedules are governed by the sun—we wake with the sunrise and rest when it sets. We even check the forecast before planning vacations or weddings in hopes we’ll enjoy the sunniest days. Yet, despite its magnificence, we often take the sun for granted. Here are some brilliant facts about the sun to share in the classroom.
Our Favorite Facts About the Sun
The sun is a 4.5-billion-year-old star.
That’s right, we’ve got a giant ball of helium and hydrogen at the center of our solar system!
The sun is about 93 million miles from Earth.
Or 150 million kilometers, but who’s counting? It might be far away, but it does so much to support our lives here on this planet!
It’s the largest object in our solar system.
In terms of volume, it would take 1.3 million Earths to fill the sun. That’s crazy!
The sun’s gravity holds the solar system together.
Whether it’s fragments of debris or massive planets, it keeps everything orbiting around it.
The hottest part of the sun is its core.
It can be 27 MILLION degrees Fahrenheit or hotter in there!
The sun’s activity influences the nature of space throughout the solar system.
It’s always sending out charged particles and experiencing powerful eruptions.
NASA and other international space agencies keep an eye on the sun.
Everything from its surface to atmosphere (and even its insides) are monitored 24/7.
There’s spacecraft specifically designed for exploring the sun.
They include the Solar Orbiter, Parker Solar Probe, Hinode, SOHO, IRIS, ACE, WIND, Solar Dynamics Observatory, and STEREO.
The sun is the only star in our solar system.
And since everything in our solar system—the planets, comets, asteroids, and space debris—revolves around it, the sun never has to share the limelight!
The sun doesn’t actually have a solid surface.
It might look solid from where we stand, but the surface we see is actually called the photosphere. In reality, the sun is just a ball of ridiculously hot plasma.
Its rotation makes measuring a “day” on the sun tricky.
Since it’s not a solid mass, its spinning is not uniform. The plasma on different areas of its surface rotates at different speeds. At its equator, the sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days.
The sun has no moons.
It’s not alone by any stretch though. It may not have a moon, but it’s orbited by eight planets, asteroids, comets, and at least five dwarf planets.
When the solar system was forming, the sun was surrounded by gas and dust.
That was 4.6 billion years ago, but some of that dust can still be found in dust rings that circle the sun to this day.
Nothing could survive on the sun.
We might need its energy for life, but nothing could live on the sun. Despite the upbeat 1980s song, no one will ever be “walking on sunshine”!
It has enough nuclear fuel to keep going another 5 billion years.
First, it will swell and become a red giant. After losing its outer layers, its core will collapse and the sun will be a white dwarf. Over time, it will gradually transform into what some refer to as a cool, dim black dwarf.
The sun is mostly made of hydrogen.
Its second-biggest element is helium. The sun’s remaining matter consists of oxygen, carbon, neon, nitrogen, magnesium, iron, and silicon.
It takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds for the sun’s light to reach Earth.
We know that the sun is the only star in our solar system. The second-closest star is Proxima Centauri and it takes more than four years for its light to reach Earth!
The sun creates weather in space.
A stream of charged particles called “solar wind” exists on the sun and sometimes eruptions from sunspots create “solar flares” that can knock out power grids on Earth.
The sun moves FAST.
Despite being the center of our solar system, the sun never stays in one place. It’s continuously orbiting around the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of around 503,311 miles per hour. The galaxy is so huge, though, that it still takes the sun about 226 million years to move through it one time!
It has spots.
Sunspots are areas of the sun’s surface that are darker and cooler than their surroundings.