Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index



See Sun (disambiguation) for other meaning of the word "Sun"

Sun (Sol)
Observation data
Mean distance from Earth 150,000,000 km
(93,000,000 mi)
Visual brightness (V) -26.8m
Absolute magnitude 4.8m
Physical characteristics
Diameter 1,392,000 km
Relative diameter (dS/dE) 109
Surface area 6.09 × 1012 km2
Volume 1.41 × 1027 m3
Mass 1.9891 × 1030
Relative mass to Earth 333,400
Density 1411 kg m-3
Relative density to Earth 0.26
Relative density to water 1.409
Surface gravity 274 m s-2
Relative surface gravity 27.9 g
Surface temperature 5780 K
Temperature of corona 5 × 106 K
Luminosity (LS) 3.827 × 1026 J s-1
Orbital characteristics
Period of rotation  
At equator: 27d 6h 36m
At 30° latitude: 28d 4h 48m
At 60° latitude: 30d 19h 12m
At 75° latitude: 31d 19h 12m
Period of orbit around
galactic centre
2.2 × 108 years
Photospheric composition
Hydrogen 73.46 %
Helium 24.85 %
Oxygen 0.77 %
Carbon 0.29 %
Iron 0.16 %
Neon 0.12 %
Nitrogen 0.09 %
Silicon 0.07 %
Magnesium 0.05 %
Sulphur 0.04 %

The Sun, sometimes called Sol, is the star in our solar system. The planet Earth and all of her sister planets, both the other terrestrial planets and the gas giants, orbit the Sun. Other bodies that orbit the Sun include asteroids, meteoroids, comets, Trans-Neptunian objects, and, of course, dust.

Physical and other characteristics

The Sun is a main sequence star, with a spectral class of G2, meaning that it is somewhat bigger and hotter than the average star but far smaller than a red giant star. A G2 star has a main sequence lifetime of about 10 billion years, and the Sun is probably about 5 billion years old, as determined by nucleocosmochronology.

At the center of the Sun, where its density is 1.5 × 105 kg m-3, thermonuclear reactions (nuclear fusion) convert hydrogen into helium. 3.9 × 1045 atoms undergo nuclear reactions there every second. This releases energy which escapes from the surface of the Sun as light. Physicists are able to replicate thermonuclear reactions with hydrogen bombs. Sustained nuclear fusion on earth for electricity generation may be possible in the future, with nuclear fusion reactors.

All matter in the Sun is in the form of plasma due to its extreme temperature. This makes it possible for the sun to rotate faster at its equator than it does at higher latitudes, since the Sun is not a solid body. The differential rotation of the Sun's latitudes causes its magnetic field lines to become twisted together over time, causing magnetic field loops to erupt from the sun's surface and trigger the formation of the Sun's dramatic sunspots and solar prominences. The solar activity cycle includes old magnetic fields being stripped off the Sun's surface starting from one pole

The corona has 1011 atoms/m3, and the photosphere has 1023 atoms/m3.

For some time it was thought that the number of neutrinos produced by the nuclear reaction in the Sun was only one third of the number predicted by theory, a result that was termed the solar neutrino problem. When it was recently found that neutrinos had mass, and could therefore transform into harder-to-detect varieties of neutrinos while en route from the Sun to Earth, measurement and theory were reconciled.

To obtain an uninterrupted view of the Sun, the European Space Agency and NASA cooperatively launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on December 2, 1995.

Observation of the Sun can reveal such phenomena as:

Caution: looking directly at the sun can damage the retina and one's eyesight.

The astronomical symbol for the sun is the circumpunct.

Large solar flare recorded by SOHO EIT304 instrument. . . Courtesy SOHO(ESA&NASA)

See also:

The Solar System

Sun - Mercury - Venus - Earth - Mars - Asteroids - Jupiter - Saturn - Uranus - Neptune - Pluto - Comets - Kuiper belt - Oort cloud