Understanding the Sun


Dear Friends & Viewers/Visitors/Readers,

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Yes, as I’ve titled our previous post, dated Aug. 20, 2012, The Most Intensely Heated & Dangerous Relationship Research Project: Improving Earth’s Future Environment-Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) & Green Fuels, full appreciation of our relationship with the Sun will be forever paramount for Earth’s environment, energy, communications, climate/weather, and last but not least, Earth’ s longevity.  This bubbling, boiling, fireball in the sky at ninety-three million miles (149.6 million kilometers) away, supporting almost all life on Earth by photosynthesis and driving Earth’s climate and weather ….matters a great deal to us earthlings.  Some modern experts of the Sun are predicting the most violent solar activities in our modern history.

According to wikipedia:

The Sun is gradually becoming more luminous (about 10% every 1 billion years), and its surface temperature is slowly rising. The Sun used to be fainter in the past, which is possibly the reason life on Earth has only existed for about 1 billion years on land. The increase in solar temperatures is such that in about another billion years the surface of the Earth will likely become too hot for liquid water to exist, ending all terrestrial life.

Solar Evolution (wikimedia commons)

Solar Life Cycle (wikimedia commons)

Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy. The solar constant is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately 1,368 W/m2 (watt per square meter) at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth). Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by the Earth’s atmosphere so that less power arrives at the surface—closer to 1,000 W/m2 in clear conditions when the Sun is near the zenith.

Zenith (wikimedia commons)

Actual Sunset (wikimedia commons)

Actual Sunrise (wikimedia commons)

Solar energy can be harnessed by a variety of natural and synthetic processes—photosynthesis by plants captures the energy of sunlight and converts it to chemical form (oxygen and reduced carbon compounds), while direct heating or electrical conversion by solar cells are used by solar power equipment to generate electricity or to do other useful work, sometimes employing concentrating solar power (that it is measured in suns). The energy stored in petroleum and other fossil fuels was originally converted from sunlight by photosynthesis in the distant past.


We are living in a world that is increasingly susceptible to space weather disturbances.  Many interconnected physical processes strongly influenced by solar variability, affect the health and safety of travelers in space and the habitability of alien environments.  This science of the Sun-Solar System Connections is termed “Heliophysics“.

Based on NASA’s rich history of exploration of the Earths neighborhood and distant planetary systems, we are developing the quantitative knowledge needed to help assure the safety of the new generation of human and robotic explorers. The Heliophysics Program has been completely reevaluated to address the needs of the Vision for Space Exploration.

NASA’s future research and exploration within its Heliophysics program aims to explore the Sun-Earth system to understand the Sun and its effects on Earth, the solar system, and the space environmental conditions that will be experienced by explorers, and to demonstrate technologies that can improve future operational systems.  Hear! Hear! Let’s optimize our use of the Sun’s energy and learn to protect ourselves from its potential hazards. Below, we see how NASA uses high resolution images of the sun and modeling of solar storms, to improve our ability to predict when solar storm hits and how it will affect our daily lives. NASA’s study of sun’s variability, solar storms, and solar wind will also increase our understanding of Sun’s  effect on Earth and Earth’s magnetic field.  The most important researches of Heliophysics program concerns our daily lives:  effects on satellite and ground communications, aircraft navigation systems, power grids, etc. Let’s take a look at the three broad science and exploration objectives of NASA’s Heliophysics Program in the video clip below: to open the frontier to space weather prediction, to better understand the nature of Earth in space, and to safeguard the journey of exploration.

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net

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One Response to “Understanding the Sun”

  1. Mike Says:

    NASA also has a web site on some of this material here http://science.nasa.gov/heliophysics

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