The Sun rises every morning and sets every evening. Across the globe and throughout history numerous cultures have worshiped and praised it. Without it, life as we know it could not exist. The Sun also known as the center of our solar system plays a pivotal role in our everyday lives, but what is it, and how does it compare to Earth?
The Sun is one of 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. It is currently in its prime life for a star, at the age of 4.6 billion years old. The question is where did our Sun originate from? Scientists believe that the Sun, along with the other celestial bodies of our solar system formed around 5 billion years ago, from a cloud of interstellar gas and dust called a nebula. When the nebula collapsed in on itself the materials of dust and gas clumped together to create a protostar that would eventually become our Sun. Though it is not fully known how the nebula collapsed, it is theorized that waves of energy traveling through space pressed the particles in the nebula together allowing for gravity to take over and collapse the nebula.
For tens of millions of years, the protostar was just a massive clump of hydrogen and helium. Over that time the temperature and pressure of the materials within it began to increase. At one point this rise in temperature and pressure reached the correct levels to begin nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the process in which pressure breaks down hydrogen particles and turns them into helium particles. Protons fuse together releasing photons, minuscule heat, and light. The light created from the process of nuclear fusion is what we see on Earth every day!
The Sun is a fairly regular-sized star, in the main sequence of its life. It is estimated that our Sun will continue to burn its hydrogen fuel for another 5 billion years. After it can no longer go through the process of nuclear fusion, it will become a red giant expanding out to where Earth’s orbit is now. Eventually, the Sun will consume the helium at its core, but it will never have a high enough temperature to burn any oxygen or carbon leftover. Meaning that the Sun will become a white dwarf, given it is not a large star.
Around 150 million km away from us, the Sun is the largest celestial object in our sky. Though the Sun is relatively small compared to other stars in the universe, it is still massive in comparison to the size of Earth! According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it would take 330,000 Earths' to match the mass of the Sun, and 1.3 million Earths' to fill the Sun's volume.
Even in the 21st century, we as humans base our lives around the Sun. It gives us day and night, and our calendar year. Without it, nothing in our solar system would function the way it does. The origins of the Sun give us insight into how other stars form, and begin to help scientists answer the mysteries of the universe.
Choi, Charles Q. “Earth's Sun: Facts about the Sun's Age, Size and History.” Space.com, Space. 9 June 2021. https://www.space.com/58-the-sun-formation-facts-and-characteristics.html.
NASA. “In Depth.” NASA. 15 Oct. 2021, https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/sun/in-depth/#:~:text=The%20Sun%20is%20a%204.5,exist%20on%20our%20home%20planet.
Tillman, Nola Taylor. “How Was the Sun Formed?” Space.com, Space. 9 June 2021, https://www.space.com/19321-sun-formation.html.