When we were kids, the sun appeared in almost every picture we drew of the outdoors, and was usually depicted as a bold yellow circle with lines radiating from it.
While that was a solid approximation, given our vantage point, we all now have the amazing opportunity to behold the sun as never before — seeing the tendrils and flares, storms and explosions.
As these pictures taken from space demonstrate, the sun’s activity is as violent as it is beautiful, and its energy is delivered into the solar system on a scale almost beyond comprehension.
Below, see a few photos of our solar system’s intensely powerful and utterly glorious beating heart.
Click on any image to see a larger version & get more information
Photo gallery: Views of the sun
All photos courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland
About the sun
The sun is the Earth’s power plant — not only does it give our little planet heat and light, but it has a huge influence on weather patterns — and is necessary for the survival of life all around the globe.
The sun and its atmosphere consist of several zones, or layers. From the inside out, the solar interior consists of the core, the radiative zone, and the convection zone. The solar atmosphere is made up of the photosphere, the chromosphere, a transition region, and the corona. Beyond the corona is the solar wind, which is actually an outward flow of coronal gas.
Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
12 sun facts
- Our Sun is one of more than 200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
- A star’s mass determines its temperature, luminosity, color, and how it will live and die.
- Our Sun is more massive than the average star in its neighborhood. Nearly 90% of stars are less massive, making them cooler and dimmer.
- The hottest and most massive stars are bright and blue, while the coolest and least massive stars are dim and red. Yellow stars, like our Sun, are in-between.
- The Sun is 93 million miles away from Earth, and is almost 5 billion years old.
- It takes light 200,000 years to escape from the Sun, but only eight minutes to reach the Earth.
- The Sun contains 99.9% of all matter in our solar system.
- During a single second, the sun converts 4 million tons of matter into pure energy.
- The Sun rotates on its axis approximately once every 27 days.
- The core of the Sun is nearly as dense as lead, and has a temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius. The coolest part of the Sun is nearly 6,000 degrees Celsius.
- Solar flares can sometimes heat the solar surface to temperatures of 80 million degrees F — far hotter than the sun’s core.
- The Sun’s radius is 432,470 miles, which is equal to 109 Earth radii. It would take about 1 million Earths to fill the Sun if it were a hollow ball.