The Sun is an ordinary star. To us on Earth it is of crucial importance since no life could exist without it, but it is simply one of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, itself one of billions of galaxies in the Universe. For a star, the Sun is below average size – some astronomers classify it as a “yellow dwarf”. Yet it is massive when compared to the planets. The Sun contains more than 99 per cent of all the matter in the Solar System. Its diameter of 1,400,000 kilometres is more than 100 times that of Earth.  

The Sun is a spinning ball of intensely hot gas made up almost entirely of hydrogen (three-quarters of its mass) and helium. It produces massive amounts of energy by “burning” about four million tonnes of hydrogen every second.


At the centre of the Sun is the core, a region of incredible pressure (200 billion times that on the Earth’s surface) and intense heat – about 15 million °C. This is the Sun’s nuclear furnace, where the energy that keeps it shining is released. Hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium. Energy from this reaction flows out from the core through the radiative zone to the convective zone. Here, in a continuous cycle, hot gas bubbles up to the surface before sinking down to be reheated again.


The Sun’s outer shell, the photosphere, is only about 500 kilometres thick and, at 5500°C, much “cooler” than at the core. It is in a state of constant motion, like water in a boiling kettle. Hundreds of thousands of flaming gas jets, called spicules, leap up to 10,000 kilometres into the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the chromosphere.

Invisible lines of magnetic force that twist around the Sun’s globe are the cause of many extraordinary features. Huge arches of fire, called prominences, can be held up above the Sun by magnetism. Flares, sudden, massive explosions of energy, burst forth when the magnetic field shifts. Where magnetic field lines erupt through the photosphere, there are dark, cooler areas (about 4300°C) known as sunspots.

Beyond the chromosphere lies the corona, the Sun’s hot, shimmering outer atmosphere. This is visible from Earth only during a total solar eclipse.


When the Sun’s fuel of hydrogen starts to run out, it will grow into a much bigger and brighter star, called a red giant. It will eventually shed its outer layers into space. All that will remain of the Sun itself will be, at first, a small, extremely dense star (a white dwarf), before it eventually cools and wastes away (a black dwarf).

            By coincidence, the Moon and Sun appear to be the same size in the sky. So when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, it may block out our view of the Sun, a solar eclipse. During a total eclipse, an event only rarely witnessed, the Moon covers the Sun’s surface entirely and the corona shines out from behind a black disc. For a short while, dusk falls. In a partial eclipse, part of the Sun still remains visible.

Picture Credit : Google