The Sun is extremely hot. Its surface temperature is about 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,932 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the Sun’s core is even hotter, reaching temperatures of around 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit). The immense heat is generated by nuclear fusion, where hydrogen atoms combine to form helium and release an enormous amount of energy. This energy radiates outwards, providing heat and light to our solar system. Despite its scorching temperatures, the Sun’s heat is crucial for supporting life on Earth and driving weather patterns.
The sun, which warms our planet and sustains life on Earth, is a large mass of gas. The majority of these gases are hydrogen and helium, but the sun also contains small amounts of other elements such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, and iron.
Deep within its core, the sun undergoes a process called “nuclear fusion,” where millions of tons of hydrogen are converted into helium, releasing tremendous amounts of energy. It is this fusion process that generates the intense heat and light that eventually reaches Earth.
Have you ever experienced extremely high temperatures during the summer where you live? In many parts of the United States, temperatures exceeding 100°F are common during this season.
Now, imagine how much hotter it would be if Earth were closer to the sun. Thankfully, Earth is positioned approximately 93 million miles away from the sun, allowing us to live comfortably throughout the year.
When we think about the hottest thing on Earth, lava often comes to mind. Lava is molten rock that occasionally erupts from volcanoes and reaches temperatures of 2,200°F or higher. However, even lava pales in comparison to the sun!
On the sun’s surface, known as the “photosphere,” the temperature reaches a staggering 10,000°F! This is about five times hotter than the hottest lava found on Earth. Surprisingly, the photosphere is not even the hottest part of the sun.
The temperature of the sun increases further as you move away from the photosphere, whether towards the core or towards the sun’s outermost atmospheric layer.
This outermost atmospheric layer is called the “corona,” which appears as a bright halo of light during a total solar eclipse.
The corona can reach temperatures as high as 3,600,000°F at its farthest point from the sun. Yes, you read that right – 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit! Astonishingly, the corona is still not the hottest region of the sun.
To find the hottest part of the sun, one must journey all the way to its core. In the core, nuclear fusion generates temperatures of approximately 27,000,000°F. This is over 12,000 times hotter than the hottest lava on Earth!
If the core is the hottest region of the sun, then what is the coolest part? Occasionally, dark and cool areas called “sunspots” appear on the photosphere due to magnetic disturbances.
These sunspots tend to be cooler than their surrounding areas, with temperatures usually around 6,700°F.
Try It Out
Phew! Today’s Wonder of the Day really got things heated, didn’t it? Well, we say let’s turn up the heat even more as you engage in one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:
To understand how hot something is, you can use a thermometer. This activity involves gauging the temperature of different items based on personal experience. It is recommended to have a few liquids of varying temperatures for this experiment. You can ask an adult for assistance and use the stove or microwave to heat up water, making it more exciting. Find different liquids such as room temperature tap water, milk from the refrigerator, the coldest tap water, the hottest shower water, water microwaved for different durations (10, 20, 30 seconds or more), and boiling water. Create a list of these items and make a guess about their temperatures. Then, use a thermometer to measure their exact temperatures. Compare your guesses to the actual temperatures. Identify the coldest and hottest liquids. How does the temperature of the hottest liquid compare to the heat of the sun’s core?
Protecting Yourself from the Sun
Now that you have an idea of the sun’s temperature, it’s important to know how to safeguard your body from its harmful rays. It is also essential to be aware of what to do in case of sunburn. When spending time in the sun, it is advisable to wear sunglasses and use sunscreen. This is particularly important if you plan to stay outdoors for an extended period, like a day at the beach. Apply generous amounts of sunscreen and reapply every two hours. If you are sweating or engaging in physical activities, you may need to apply sunscreen more frequently. Sunscreens are available in various types, with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) numbers indicated on the bottle. It is recommended to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Higher SPF numbers provide greater protection against the sun. If you are prone to sunburn, consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses to minimize sun exposure. In the event of a sunburn, there is no quick remedy for healing the skin. The best approach is to treat the symptoms and give your skin time to recover. Keep the sunburned skin cool with damp towels or baths. Moisturize the affected areas with creams containing aloe. Special lotions for sunburns can be found at most drugstores. If you have a severe sunburn with multiple blisters, as well as headaches and nausea, it is advisable to consult a doctor. However, if you only have a few blisters, there may be no need to see a doctor – just avoid breaking them to prevent infection and slow down the healing process.
Life on Planets Closer to the Sun
Curious about life on planets closer to the sun? Earth is habitable due to its distance from the sun, but what about Mercury and Venus? Conduct your own internet research to discover what life would be like on these planets. Compare their weather to Earth’s, including the extremes of hot and cold. Consider if humans could survive on these planets and explain why or why not. Share your findings with friends and family to spark an interesting discussion.