The sun is the closest star to Earth and provides the light and heat we need to live and thrive on our planet. The sun’s core temperature reaches about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, with surface temperatures of up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun also has strong winds of up to 2,000 miles per hour that flow outward from its center toward the sun’s edges, similar to the way water flows in waves toward shoreline when you toss a pebble into it. You can learn more about how our sun works in this blog post on the sun.


How old is the sun?

One of our nearest star is 4.6 billion years old and produces a consistent stream of radiation and high-energy particles that bathe Earth in warmth and light. What makes our sun unique, however, isn’t just its age but also its composition; it burns 600 million tons of hydrogen each second. Over time, it will begin to burn through all its available fuel, forcing it to expand into a red giant before ultimately becoming a white dwarf.


When will the sun die?

The sun will not die, it will burn and become hotter as it burns until there is nothing left to burn. The Sun’s ultimate fate depends on its mass: low-mass stars like our sun expel much of their mass and shine for billions of years; high-mass stars, on the other hand, burn much brighter and faster and live shorter lives. Stars with at least 1.4 times (1.4 solar masses) our Sun’s mass expand into red giants and eventually explode in a colossal supernova explosion or implode to form a black hole or neutron star; stars between 1.4 solar masses and 3 solar masses become neutron stars that either shrink or pulsate depending on their magnetic fields.


What are solar flares?

Solar flares are bursts of high-energy radiation that shoot from the surface of our sun. They happen when electrons and protons in our solar atmosphere suddenly move with extreme speeds, often due to intense magnetic fields. The most violent solar flares can be dangerous to astronauts and interfere with communications systems on Earth. But they also occur on a much smaller scale, ejecting charged particles called ions and causing temporary disturbances in Earth’s upper atmosphere called geomagnetic storms—which can cause beautiful auroras. People living under clear skies with no light pollution will be able to see these more subtle examples of space weather without even trying!


Solar eruptions in history

Solar flares, eruptions, and coronal mass ejections are caused by a sudden release of magnetic energy. The Sun releases enormous amounts of these events every day, but most are too small to notice. On rare occasions, however, powerful solar storms can occur that disrupt power grids and communications on Earth for days or even weeks. Here’s a look at some of history’s largest solar events.


Can we predict solar flares?

Solar flares are powered by energy from inside of a star, so it’s not possible to predict exactly when they will occur. Solar flares are caused by explosions that release tons of solar material into space at speeds of about 10 million miles per hour (16 million kilometers per hour). These giant explosions can send solar particles toward Earth, which can be dangerous for satellites and astronauts in space. However, researchers studying images of our sun have been able to determine that some solar flares may actually follow certain patterns and indicate predictable behavior. Solar scientists continue to study these patterns in order to better predict when strong flares may occur.


What are coronal mass ejections?

The sun has a complicated system of magnetic fields and currents. They produce giant explosions of superheated gas called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. If one of these eruptions is aimed directly at Earth, it can severely disrupt satellites in orbit, interfere with communications signals (including those from telephones and radios), and cause electrical power surges on ground-based transmission lines that can harm electrical equipment. These geomagnetic storms are most often observed during solar maximum, when intense magnetic activity is common.


What causes a solar storm?

It turns out that a solar storm is caused by an explosion on our nearest star. On average, a solar storm will happen every 11 years and can release as much energy as 100 billion atomic bombs! That might sound like a lot, but there’s no need to be worried – Earth’s atmosphere blocks most of its radiation. A large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) ejects billions of tons of particles at a speed of 2 million miles per hour towards earth which can sometimes lead to power cuts, satellite failures and strong radio blackouts.


How does a solar storm affect Earth?

A solar storm is a disturbance in space that occurs when plasma and magnetic fields break through Earth’s magnetosphere. A solar storm may release charged particles or radiation and occur on its own or in conjunction with other events such as coronal mass ejections. The effects of a solar storm can vary widely, from long-term weather changes to interference with satellite communication, navigation, and other systems. The electromagnetic radiation from a large solar flare can also damage Earth-orbiting satellites or even bring down power grids if they are not properly protected. Due to their potential for widespread destruction, scientists monitor solar storms very closely.


When can we see the next solar eclipse?

The previous solar eclipse was visible from North America will be on August 21, 2017. It was a total solar eclipse that began in Oregon and crossed through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse also occured throughout Africa and much of Asia. The next total solar eclipse over all of North America (in 2024) will start near Mexico City and travel northeast through Texas up to Maine. For more information on upcoming eclipses check out NASA’s Eclipse Website.


What will happen to Earth when our sun(star) dies out?

We may think of our sun as a permanent fixture in our solar system, but it will die someday. In fact, in about 5 billion years from now, it will grow so large that it will begin to consume Mercury and Venus. The Earth might eventually become a hot Neptune-like planet with a thick gaseous envelope surrounding it. Fortunately for us, we’ll be long gone by then; 4 billion years is more than enough time for life to go extinct on Earth due to natural causes like super volcanoes or asteroid impacts.

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