Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Star

Have you stopped to ponder just how mind-blowingly huge the Sun is lately?

Last week while volunteering up at the Vis I took a picture of the Sun through the solar telescope on a whim. I noticed a large sunspot group on it, but didn't think anything else of it until this week when I learned that said sunspot group (called Active Region 1339) is one of the larger ones on record. I'd also heard somewhere along the line that it was larger than Earth, so I decided to do some visual comparing of my own. After seeing how Earth and Jupiter looked against the Sun, I decided to go all the way and add the rest of the planets. This image is the result. It shows the 8 planets of our Solar System against the Sun with AR 1339, all of them correctly sized relative to each other. (The distances between the planets are not to scale, due to the way I set up the picture.)

Our Solar System.
Look at this image, and let it sink in for bit. The Sun accounts for a whopping 99.86% of all matter in the Solar System. It's big. For fun, see how many other sunspots you can spot in this picture that are larger than Earth.

Edit (11/25/11): One other thing I like about this picture that I forgot to mention the first time is the sense of security it gives, when you really think about it. Stable orbits, despite their ubiquity in nature, are still nothing to take for granted, and it's sort of comforting seeing just how huge the Sun is compared to the Earth, and just how firmly we're caught in its gravitational embrace.

“Tremble before Him, all the Earth; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the Earth rejoice” -- 1 Chronicles 16:30-31a

1 comment:

  1. Yes it is rather stunning just how much the planets are a kind of sparse residue in a system that is basically just star. On the bright side, this does allow for some fabulous chemistry on the planets, since, while the total entropy of the solar system is decreasing due to the Sun's life cycle, the radiation produced by the Sun allows the entropy of parts of the planets to decrease.

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