The Sun

Current Solar Activity - NOAA

The Sun is the closest star to Earth. The Sun is a huge mass of hot, glowing gas. The Sun is a huge mass of hot, glowing gas. The strong gravitational pull of the Sun holds Earth and the other planets in the solar system in orbit. The Sun's light and heat influence all of the objects in the solar system and allow life to exist on Earth.

The Sun is an average star its size, age, and temperature fall in about the middle of the ranges of these properties for all stars. Astronomers believe that the Sun is about 4.6 billion years old and will keep shining for about another 7 billion years. For humans, the Sun is beautiful and useful, but also powerful and dangerous.

As Earth turns, the Sun rises over the eastern horizon in the morning, passes across the sky during the day, and sets in the west in the evening. This movement of the Sun across the sky marks the passage of time during the day. The Sun's movement can produce spectacular sunrises and sunsets under the right atmospheric conditions. At night, reflected sunlight makes the Moon and planets bright in the night sky.

The Sun provides Earth with vast amounts of energy every day. The oceans and seas store this energy and help keep the temperature of Earth at a level that allows a wide variety of life to exist. Plants use the Sun's energy to make food, and plants provide food for other organisms. The Sun's energy also creates wind in Earth's atmosphere. This wind can be harnessed and used to produce power.

While it lights our day and provides energy for life, sunlight can also be harmful to people. Human skin is sensitive to ultraviolet light emitted from the Sun. Earth's atmosphere blocks much of the harmful light, but sunlight is still strong enough to burn skin under some conditions. Sunburn is one of the most important risk factors in the development of skin cancers, which can be fatal. Sunlight is also very harmful to human eyes. A person should never look directly at the Sun, even with sunglasses or during an eclipse. The Sun influences Earth with more than just light. Particles flowing from the Sun can disrupt Earth's magnetic field, and these disruptions can interfere with electronic communications. Read more


A nanoflare is a very small solar flare which happens in the corona, the external atmosphere of the Sun. The hypothesis of "microflares" as a possible explanation of the coronal heating was first suggested by Thomas Gold and then later developed by Eugene Parker. Read more

Sun (Solar) Cycles

The solar cycle, or the solar magnetic activity cycle, is a periodic change in the amount of irradiation from the Sun that is experienced on Earth. It has a period of about 11 years, and is one component of solar variation, the other being aperiodic fluctuations. Solar variation causes changes in space weather and to some degree weather and climate on Earth. The cycle is observed by counting the frequency and placement of sunspots visible on the Sun. Powered by a hydromagnetic dynamo process, driven by the inductive action of internal solar flows, the solar cycle:

Solar maximum or solar max is the period of greatest solar activity in the solar cycle of the sun. During solar maxima, large numbers of sunspots appear. A solar maximum is the period when the sun's magnetic field lines are the most distorted due to the magnetic field on the solar equator rotating at a slightly faster pace than at the solar poles. The solar cycle takes an average of about 11 years to go from one solar maximum to the next, with an observed variation in duration of 9 to 14 years for any given solar cycle.

Solar Flares - Coronal Mass Ejections

Ongoing coronal mass ejections (CMEs) reach Earth effecting planetary magnetics, sparking geomagnetic storms, shifting ocean and jet stream currents in the Pacific Ring of Fire, creating unusual and extreme global weather patterns, creating unstoppable Earth changes, and affecting the behavior patterns of all sentient life forms.

There appears to be a correlation between the rise and fall of civilizations with the rise and fall of radiation from the sun. The graph shows a long-term envelope of sunspot activity derived from the center graph of Carbon 14. More carbon 14 is absorbed in the growth rings of tress during the sunspot minima. Sunspot minima also correlates with mini-ice ages and a winter severity index based on a mean for Paris and London - for the period shown. The Maya disappeared during a sunspot minimum.

Sunspots and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
Maurice Cottrell

The Carrington Event

The Carrington Event of September 1859 occurred during a solar minimum cycle and was the most powerful solar storm in recorded history. The largest flare, observed by Richard Carrington, became known as the Carrington Super Flare. Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. The solar flare was so unusual, researchers still aren't sure how to categorize it.

As 2011 unfolds, the sun is once again on the eve of a solar minimum cycle - at least that's what forecasters are saying. Don't bet on it. A similar storm today might knock us for a loop affecting power grids, GPS, and satellite communications and anything vulnerable to solar storms. CMEs affect planetary magnetics, sparking geomagnetic storms shifting ocean and jet stream currents in the Pacific Ring of Fire, creating unusual and extreme global weather patterns, creating unstoppable Earth changes, and affecting the behavior patterns of all sentient life forms.

The Carrington Event of 1859 reminds us that strong solar storms

can occur even when the underlying cycle is nominally weak.

Flux Transfer Event

A flux transfer event (FTE) occurs when a magnetic portal opens in the Earth's magnetosphere through which high-energy particles flow from the Sun. This connection, while previously thought to be permanent, has been found to be brief and very dynamic. The European Space Agency's four Cluster spacecraft and NASA's five THEMIS probes have flown through and surrounded these FTEs, measuring their dimensions and identifying the particles that are transferred between the magnetic fields.

Earth's magnetosphere and the Sun's magnetic field are constantly pressed against one another on the dayside of Earth. Approximately every eight minutes, these fields briefly merge, forming a temporary "portal" between the Earth and the Sun through which high-energy particles such as solar wind can flow. The portal takes the shape of a magnetic cylinder about the width of Earth. Current observations place the portal at up to 4 times the size of the earth.

Since Cluster and THEMIS have directly sampled FTEs, scientists can simulate FTEs on computers to predict how they might behave. Jimmy Raeder of the University of New Hampshire told his colleagues simulations show that the cylindrical portals tend to form above Earth's equator and then roll over Earth's winter pole. In December, FTEs roll over the north pole; in July they roll over the south pole.

Magnetic fields similar to Earth's are common throughout known space and many undergo similar flux transfer events. During its second flyby of the planet on October 6, 2008, the NASA probe MESSENGER discovered that Mercury's magnetic field shows a magnetic reconnection rate ten times higher than Earth's. Mercury's proximity to the sun only accounts for about a third of the reconnection rate observed by MESSENGER and the cause of this discrepancy is not currently known.

Strange Portal Connects Earth to Sun - November 3, 2008
Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say. Called a flux transfer event, such cosmic connections not only exist but are possibly twice as common as anyone ever imagined.


In astronomy, an analemma (from Greek "pedestal of a sundial") is a curve representing the angular offset of a celestial body (usually the Sun) from its mean position on the celestial sphere as viewed from another celestial body relative to the viewing body's celestial equator. The term is commonly applied nowadays to the figure traced in the sky when the position of the Sun is plotted at the same time each day over a calendar year from a particular location on Earth.

Knowing that Earth's average solar day is almost exactly 24 hours, an analemma can be traced by plotting the position of the Sun as viewed from a fixed position on Earth at the same time every day for an entire year. The resulting curve resembles a figure of eight, but on other solar system bodies it may be very different because of the interplay between the tilt of each body's axis and the elliptical shape of its orbit.

Solar Halos, Sun Dogs, Sun Spokes, Rainbows

The Sun in Mythology

Creation is often linked to a combination of the Sun (Male) and Moon (Goddess) - representing duality in physical reality.

A solar deity - sun god or goddess - represents the sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. Hence, many beliefs have formed around this worship, such as the "missing sun" found in many cultures.

In different religions solar supreme deities carry different names and are associated with different aspects of the cultural universe of the society, but for the most part its raw image remains identical.

The Neolithic concept of a solar barge, the sun as traversing the sky in a boat, is found in the later myths of ancient Egypt, with Ra and Horus. Earlier Egyptian myths imply that the sun is within the lioness, Sekhmet, at night and can be seen reflected in her eyes or that it is within the cow, Hathor during the night, being reborn each morning as her son (bull). Proto-Indo-European religion has a solar chariot, the sun as traversing the sky in a chariot.

During the Roman Empire, a festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated on the winter solstice - the "rebirth" of the sun. In Germanic mythology this is Sol, in Vedic Surya, and in Greek Helios (occasionally referred to as Titan) and (sometimes) as Apollo. Mesopotamian Shamash plays an important role during the Bronze Age, and "my Sun" is eventually used as an address to royalty. Similarly, South American cultures have emphatic Sun worship, see Inti. See also Sol Invictus. Svarog is the Slavic god sun and spirit of fire.

During the later periods of Roman history, sun worship gained in importance and ultimately led to what has been called a solar monotheism. Nearly all the gods of the period were possessed of solar qualities. The feast of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) on December 25 was celebrated with great joy, and eventually this date was taken over by the Christians as Christmas, the celebrated birthday of Christ. Sun Gods

The Sun in Culture

Humans have long recognized the Sun's role in supporting life on Earth, and as a result many societies throughout history have paid homage to the Sun by giving it prominent roles in their religions and mythologies.

The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Old High German sunna, but took the male gender of the Latin sol (the sun, "he", but now also "it"). Its astrological and astronomical symbol is a circle with a point at its center.

The ancient Greeks grouped the Sun together with the other celestial bodies which moved across the sky (in relation to the starfield), calling them all planets. This was before the acceptance of heliocentrism.

The worship of the Sun in the Eastern world has its historical origin in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians identified the Sun with Ra, one of the major deities in their religion, and the visible disk of the Sun (known as Aten) was either seen as the body or the eye of Ra. The pharaoh Akhenaten established a monotheistic religion during his reign, with Aten as its central figure.

In Hindu religious literature, the Sun is notably mentioned as the visible form of God that one can see every day. In Hinduism, Surya is the chief solar deity, son of Dyaus Pitar. The ritual of sandhyavandanam, performed by some Hindus, is meant to worship the Sun. Many scripts from Hindu mythology referred the sun as a King, who rides on a chariot seven horses (this is indication of seven colors from Sunlight).

In the Qur'an, the Islamic religious scripture, the Sun like other celestial objects is not endowed with any particular religious significance or symbolic meaning. Due to the widespread presence of Sun-worshiping cults in Pre-Islamic Arabia, Muslim doctrine, the Shariah forbade all prayers during the rising and setting of the Sun, to symbolically refute its divinity. Pre-Islamic Arab pagans considered solar eclipses and other celestial occurrences as omens signaling the passing of an important figure or other earthly events. However, this belief was refuted explicitly by the Prophet Muhammad in the year 632 C.E, when the death of his son coincided with a solar eclipse: "The Sun and the Moon are from among the evidences of God. They do not eclipse because of someone's death or life."

The religious significance of the Sun has its roots in the very earliest of recorded Western history. Both the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans worshipped one or more solar deities.

Many Greek myths personify the Sun as a Titan named Helios, who wore a shining crown and rode a chariot across the sky, causing day. Over time, the Sun became increasingly associated with Apollo. Icarus attempted to fly but the sun melted his wings.

The Roman Empire adopted Helios into their own mythology as Sol. The title Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun") was applied to several solar deities, and depicted on several types of Roman coins during the 3rd and 4th centuries. The birth of "the undefeated Sun" was celebrated on the 25th of December from at least as early as 354.