This month, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory focuses on our solar system’s real superstar: the sun! The video below highlights historical observations of the sun and shows some recent robotic missions that have brought back groundbreaking data about our celestial sovereign.
The photo illustration above approximates the comparative size of the sun to our planet Earth. Containing 98% of all the mass in our solar system, the sun could easily contain within its sphere a million Earths…its diameter is about 100 times ours. From 93 million miles away you can block it out with your hand. But even its flares and prominences – such as the large one shown above at upper right – could engulf our planet many times over. Cooler regions on its surface – sunspots – can disrupt our communications with outbursts of electromagnetic energy when their numbers spike during 11-year cycles. Its constant “wind” of charged particles collide with our magnetic field and light glowing streamers in the skies around our poles: the aurora. The sun warms our oceans, lights our days, grows our food…and keeps us from careening out into interstellar space as a frozen ball of rock. Thanks, sun.
(Of course, the image above shows the two in dangerously impossible proximity through the magic of Photoshop. Don’t try this at home.)
Sun image credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO. Original version here.
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And for a whole new hi-def look at the sun, check out my latest post about the first images received from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite!