The sun is an average middle-aged star, estimated at about 4.6 billion years old, according to the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky." The sun is the central point of what astronomers call the solar system, a collection of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and other matter floating through space that go around the sun. The light and the heat generated by the sun warms the Earth and allows life to exist on this planet.
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The sun, called "Sol" by the scientists who study stars and other objects in outer space, is one of many stars that exist in space. Our sun is just medium-sized when compared with other stars. However, when compared with a planet like Earth, the sun is incredibly big. The diameter (the width) of the sun is 864,938 miles, and 1,300,000 planets the size of the Earth could fit inside it if the star were simply a hollow ball, according to the Enchanted Learning website.
On average, the sun is 93,026,724 miles from Earth. The star is furthest from Earth every July 2, when it is about 94.8 million miles away. On Jan. 2 of each year, the Earth and sun are closest together, at 91.4 million miles. The light from the sun takes eight minutes to reach your eyes. The next closest star to Earth, called Proxima Centauri, is still so far away that it takes four years for its light to reach Earth.
Gravity is what prevents the Earth from spinning away into the darkness of space, making the Earth circle the sun, which takes about 365 days. The gravity of the sun is much more powerful than that of Earth because of the sun's size. If you weighed 45.4kg. here on Earth, on the sun--if you somehow could survive the conditions--you would weigh 1270kg.
The sun is a mixture of about three-quarters hydrogen gas and one-quarter helium gas, which undergo constant chemical reactions. At the centre, or core, of the sun, hydrogen turning into helium gas creates temperatures as high as 22.5 million degrees Fahrenheit. The outer surface of the sun is much cooler, but is still about 5482 degrees C. Further from the surface, in the sun's outer atmosphere, the temperatures increase again to around 2 million degrees F. Cooler areas on the sun's surface, called sunspots, are about 4038 degrees C.
Because the sun is so very bright, it is not easy to study. You should never look directly at the sun, especially with binoculars or a telescope, as this could damage your eyes. Scientists have chances to study the sun in detail during solar eclipses, when the moon comes directly between the sun and Earth and appears to block out the light coming from the sun for a very short time.
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