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The Sun is the central star of the Solar System, and an essential source of energy for all life on planet Earth. Being a spherical ball of burning plasma, it is fascinating to discover the chemical composition of this ever-important star.
So what is the Sun Made of? The sun consists of various elements in varying quantities. However, it is predominantly made out of the gas Hydrogen (~70)%). A further 28% is Helium, where 1.5% consists of Oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon. Very small amounts of elements including Magnesium, Sulfur, Iron and Silicon and Neon make up the rest of the Sun’s composition.
Chemical Composition of the Sun
Studies into the composition of the Sun have shown there to be around 67 different chemical elements. This is not conclusive, and it is expected that there will be more. However, due to their inferior size, it is not possible to detect them with current technology. The highest ten components are found below:
Why Does The Sun Shine?
The Sun shines and appears to ‘burn’ due to the relationship between the chemical elements and how they interact with one another. The process that causes the Sun to shine is known as Nuclear Fusion.
Regarding the Sun, the Nuclear Fusion process involves the transition of Hydrogen into Helium, as Hydrogen atoms are compressed and join together.
This all occurs within the core, because of the incredibly hot temperature and pressures that are the result of gravity.
As all of the various gases heat up, atoms then split and become charged, which results in the transition of gas into plasma.
In this way, as time continues, the Sun is actually changing its chemical composition and becomes higher in Helium as opposed to Hydrogen.
Process of Nuclear Fusion
Due to the process of Nuclear Fusion, the energy created (in the form of Photons and Neutrinos) moves through various zones of the Sun. One of which is the Radiative Zone. Here, the energy (photons) jolt around for a considerable amount of time – estimated to be between several thousand to several million years before they ultimately reach the surface.
There is also another zone known as the Convection Zone/Region. This is the outermost zone of the Suns interior, and connects with the surface (also known as the Photosphere). It is in the Convection Zone/Region that plasma heat up towards the surface (due to the scintillating temperatures (~3.5 million degrees F (2 million degrees C).
The Photosphere is where the energy created through the process of Nuclear Fusion is released as sunlight. This light then has to go through two outer layers (Chromosphere and the Corona). These layers are not visible to the human eye, but can be seen during a total Solar Eclipse. The Chromosphere appears red and the Corona displays a white crown where plasma looks to be shooting outward.