The planets in our Solar System all revolve around the Sun, and the Earth’s position in relation to it is one of the main reasons why it is habitable. Our sun is one of an infinite number of stars in the Universe, which are all large balls of fusion reactions that generate energy taking the forms of light and heat. This originally begins with the formation of the star, created through a process known as The Nebula Theory. This theory states that nuclear reactors inside stars begin when large clouds of gas and particles (nebulas), collapse under the pressure from their gravity. The collapse causes atoms to fuse together due to this excessive pressure and heat. The result is a ball of light, known as a ‘star’.
The size of the star determines the amount of energy that it can produce. Larger ones have more heat and pressure, and can fuse heavier elements in a process known as nuclear fusion. Our sun, and other stars that are similar in size, produces energy in the core when Hydrogen atoms are converted into Helium. During this fusion, matter is released from the nuclei and converted to photons. It is estimated that 620 million metric tons are fused in our sun’s core in a single second. This is enough energy to power a large city for approximately 100 years!
Each of the sun’s layers helps to distribute the energy created, so that it will extend beyond its surface and into The Solar System. Approximately 99% of its energy production takes place in the core. The other layers, The Radioactive Zone, The Convective Zone and The Photosphere, are heated by this energy as it expands outward. The layers get progressively cooler and facilitate the transfer of heat and energy, which escape into space as sunlight or particle energy.
This energy is essential to the survival of life on our planet. Once it arrives at our atmosphere, much of the UV radiation produced during nuclear fusion is filtered by The Ozone Layer, making it less harmful to our organisms. The benefits of the sun’s rays to our planet, are extensive and include warming our seas, generating weather patterns and providing energy for plants that in turn create food and oxygen for other lifeforms. Scientists have observed where the sun’s nuclear fusion patterns are relatively stable, even though there have been slight irregularities throughout many years. They are unsure of what has caused these short-lived changes, or the effects that the more drastic ones may have on our planet since the sun affects the way in which the entire Solar System functions.