Solar core

The core of the Sun is considered to extend from the center to about 0.2 to 0.25 of solar radius.[1] It is the hottest part of the Sun and of the Solar System. It has a density of 150 g/cm3 (150 times the density of liquid water) at the center, and a temperature of 15 million kelvins (15 million degrees Celsius, 27 million degrees Fahrenheit).[2] The core is made of hot, dense plasma (ions and electrons), at a pressure estimated at 265 billion bar (3.84 trillion psi or 26.5 petapascals (PPa)) at the center. Due to fusion, the composition of the solar plasma drops from 68-70% hydrogen by mass at the outer core, to 33% hydrogen at the core/Sun center.

The core inside 0.20 of the solar radius contains 34% of the Sun's mass, but only 3.4% of the Sun's volume. Inside 0.24 solar radius, the core generates 99% of the fusion power of the Sun. There are two distinct reactions in which four hydrogen nuclei may eventually result in one helium nucleus: the proton-proton chain reaction – which is responsible for most of the Sun's released energy – and the CNO cycle.

Composition

The Sun at the photosphere is about 73-74% by mass hydrogen, which is the same composition as the atmosphere of Jupiter, and the primordial composition of hydrogen and helium at the earliest star formation after the Big Bang. However, as depth into the Sun increases, fusion decreases the fraction of hydrogen. Traveling inward, hydrogen mass fraction starts to decrease rapidly after the core radius has been reached (it is still about 70% at a radius 25% of the Sun's radius) and inside this, the hydrogen fraction drops rapidly as the core is traversed, until it reaches a low of about 33% hydrogen, at the Sun's center (radius zero).[3] All but 2% of the remaining plasma mass (i.e., 65%) is helium, at the center of the Sun.

Energy conversion

Approximately 3.7×1038 protons (hydrogen nuclei), or roughly 600 million metric tons of hydrogen, are converted into helium nuclei every second releasing energy at a rate of 3.86×1026 joules per second.[4]

The core produces almost all of the Sun's heat via fusion: the rest of the star is heated by the outward transfer of heat from the core. The energy produced by fusion in the core, except a small part carried out by neutrinos, must travel through many successive layers to the solar photosphere before it escapes into space as sunlight, kinetic or thermal energy of particles. The energy conversion per unit time (power) of fusion in the core varies with distance from the solar center. At the center of the Sun, fusion power is estimated by models to be about 276.5 watts/m3.[5] Despite its intense temperature, the peak power generating density of the core overall is similar to an active compost heap, and is lower than the power density produced by the metabolism of an adult human. The Sun is much hotter than a compost heap due to the Sun's enormous volume.[6]

The low power outputs occurring inside the fusion core of the Sun may also be surprising, considering the large power which might be predicted by a simple application of the Stefan–Boltzmann law for temperatures of 10 to 15 million kelvins. However, layers of the Sun are radiating to outer layers only slightly lower in temperature, and it is this difference in radiation powers between layers which determines net power generation and transfer in the solar core.

At 19% of the solar radius, near the edge of the core, temperatures are about 10 million kelvins and fusion power density is 6.9 W/m3, which is about 2.5% of the maximum value at the solar center. The density here is about 40 g/cm3, or about 27% of that at the center.[7] Some 91% of the solar energy is produced within this radius. Within 24% of the radius (the outer "core" by some definitions), 99% of the Sun's power is produced. Beyond 30% of the solar radius, where temperature is 7 million K and density has fallen to 10 g/cm3 the rate of fusion is almost nil.[8] There are two distinct reactions in which 4 H nuclei may eventually result in one He nucleus: "proton-proton chain reaction" and the "CNO cycle" (see below).

Proton-proton chain reaction

The first reaction in which 4 H nuclei may eventually result in one He nucleus is known as the proton-proton chain, is:[4][9]

This reaction sequence is thought to be the most important one in the solar core. The characteristic time for the first reaction is about one billion years even at the high densities and temperatures of the core, due to the necessity for the weak force to cause beta decay before the nucleons can adhere (which rarely happens in the time they tunnel toward each other, to be close enough to do so). The time that deuterium and helium-3 in the next reactions last, by contrast, are only about 4 seconds and 400 years. These later reactions proceed via the nuclear force and are thus much faster.[10] The total energy released by these reactions in turning 4 hydrogen atoms into 1 helium atom is 26.7 MeV.

CNO cycle

The second reaction sequence, in which 4 H nuclei may eventually result in one He nucleus is called the CNO cycle generates less than 10% of the total solar energy. This involves carbon atoms which are not consumed in the overall process. The details of this CNO cycle are as follows:

This process can be further understood by the picture on the right, starting from the top in clockwise direction.

Equilibrium

The rate of nuclear fusion depends strongly on density. Therefore, the fusion rate in the core is in a self-correcting equilibrium: a slightly higher rate of fusion would cause the core to heat up more and expand slightly against the weight of the outer layers. This would reduce the fusion rate and correct the perturbation; and a slightly lower rate would cause the core to cool and shrink slightly, increasing the fusion rate and again reverting it to its present level.

However the Sun gradually becomes hotter during its time on the main sequence, because the helium atoms in the core are denser than the hydrogen atoms they were fused from. This increases the gravitational pressure on the core which is resisted by a gradual increase in the rate at which fusion occurs. This process speeds up over time as the core gradually becomes denser. It is estimated that the Sun has become 30% brighter in the last four and a half billion years[11] and will continue to increase in brightness by 1% every 100 million years.[12]

Energy transfer

The high-energy photons (gamma rays) released in fusion reactions take indirect paths to the Sun's surface. According to current models, random scattering from free electrons in the solar radiative zone (the zone within 75% of the solar radius, where heat transfer is by radiation) sets the photon diffusion time scale (or "photon travel time") from the core to the outer edge of the radiative zone at about 170,000 years. From there they cross into the convective zone (the remaining 25% of distance from the Sun's center), where the dominant transfer process changes to convection, and the speed at which heat moves outward becomes considerably faster.[13]

In the process of heat transfer from core to photosphere, each gamma ray in the Sun's core is converted during scattering into several million visible light photons before escaping into space. Neutrinos are also released by the fusion reactions in the core, but unlike photons they very rarely interact with matter, so almost all are able to escape the Sun immediately. For many years measurements of the number of neutrinos produced in the Sun were much lower than theories predicted, a problem which was recently resolved through a better understanding of neutrino oscillation.

See also

References

  1. ^ García, Ra; Turck-Chièze, S; Jiménez-Reyes, Sj; Ballot, J; et al. (Jun 2007). "Tracking solar gravity modes: the dynamics of the solar core". Science. 316 (5831): 1591–3. Bibcode:2007Sci...316.1591G. doi:10.1126/science.1140598. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17478682.
  2. ^ "NASA/Marshall Solar Physics".
  3. ^ composition
  4. ^ a b McDonald, Andrew; Kennewell, John (2014). "The Source of Solar Energy". Bureau of Meteorology. Commonwealth of Australia. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. ^ Table of temperatures, power densities, luminosities by radius in the sun Archived 2001-11-29 at the Library of Congress Web Archives
  6. ^ Karl S. Kruszelnicki (17 April 2012). "Dr Karl's Great Moments In Science: Lazy Sun is less energetic than compost". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  7. ^ see p 54 and 55
  8. ^ See Archived 2001-11-29 at the Library of Congress Web Archives
  9. ^ Pascale Ehrenfreund; et al., eds. (2004). Astrobiology: future perspectives. Dordrecht [u.a.]: Kluwer Academic. ISBN 978-1-4020-2304-0. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  10. ^ These times come from: Byrne, J. Neutrons, Nuclei, and Matter, Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 2011, ISBN 0486482383, p 8.
  11. ^ The Sun's evolution
  12. ^ Earth Won't Die as Soon as Thought
  13. ^ Mitalas, R. & Sills, K. R. "On the photon diffusion time scale for the sun" http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1992ApJ...401..759M

External links

Alpha particle

Alpha particles, also called alpha ray or alpha radiation, consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium-4 nucleus. They are generally produced in the process of alpha decay, but may also be produced in other ways. Alpha particles are named after the first letter in the Greek alphabet, α. The symbol for the alpha particle is α or α2+. Because they are identical to helium nuclei, they are also sometimes written as He2+ or 42He2+ indicating a helium ion with a +2 charge (missing its two electrons). If the ion gains electrons from its environment, the alpha particle becomes a normal (electrically neutral) helium atom 42He.

Alpha particles, like helium nuclei, have a net spin of zero. Due to the mechanism of their production in standard alpha radioactive decay, alpha particles generally have a kinetic energy of about 5 MeV, and a velocity in the vicinity of 5% the speed of light. (See discussion below for the limits of these figures in alpha decay.) They are a highly ionizing form of particle radiation, and (when resulting from radioactive alpha decay) have low penetration depth. They can be stopped by a few centimeters of air, or by the skin.

However, so-called long range alpha particles from ternary fission are three times as energetic, and penetrate three times as far. As noted, the helium nuclei that form 10–12% of cosmic rays are also usually of much higher energy than those produced by nuclear decay processes, and are thus capable of being highly penetrating and able to traverse the human body and also many meters of dense solid shielding, depending on their energy. To a lesser extent, this is also true of very high-energy helium nuclei produced by particle accelerators.

When alpha particle emitting isotopes are ingested, they are far more dangerous than their half-life or decay rate would suggest, due to the high relative biological effectiveness of alpha radiation to cause biological damage. Alpha radiation is an average of about 20 times more dangerous, and in experiments with inhaled alpha emitters, up to 1000 times more dangerous than an equivalent activity of beta emitting or gamma emitting radioisotopes.

CERN Axion Solar Telescope

The CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) is an experiment in astroparticle physics to search for axions originating from the Sun. The experiment, sited at CERN in Switzerland, came online in 2002 with the first data-taking run starting in May 2003. The successful detection of solar axions would constitute a major discovery in particle physics, and would also open up a brand new window on the astrophysics of the solar core.

If the axions exist, they may be produced in the Sun's core when X-rays scatter off electrons and protons in the presence of strong electric fields. The experimental setup is built around a 9.26 m long decommissioned test magnet for the LHC capable of producing a field of up to 9.5 T. This strong magnetic field is expected to convert solar axions back into X-rays for subsequent detection by X-ray detectors. The telescope observes the Sun for about 1.5 hours at sunrise and another 1.5 hours at sunset each day. The remaining 21 hours, with the instrument pointing away from the Sun, are spent measuring background axion levels.

CAST began operation in 2003 searching for axions up to 0.02 eV. In 2005, Helium-4 was added to the magnet, extending sensitivity to masses up to 0.39 eV, then Helium-3 was used during 2008–2011 for masses up to 1.15 eV. CAST then ran with vacuum again searching for axions below 0.02 eV.

As of 2014, CAST has not turned up definitive evidence for solar axions. It has considerably narrowed down the range of parameters where these elusive particles may exist. CAST has set significant limits on axion coupling to electrons and photons.A 2017 paper using data from the 2013-2015 run reported a new best limit on axion-photon coupling of 0.66E-10 / GeV.Built upon the experience of CAST, a much larger, new-generation, axion helioscope, the International Axion Observatory (IAXO), has been proposed and is now under preparation.

Convection zone

A convection zone, convective zone or convective region of a star is a layer which is unstable to convection. Energy is primarily or partially transported by convection in such a region. In a radiation zone, energy is transported by radiation and conduction.

Stellar convection consists of mass movement of plasma within the star which usually forms a circular convection current with the heated plasma ascending and the cooled plasma descending.

The Schwarzschild criterion expresses the conditions under which a region of a star is unstable to convection. A parcel of gas that rises slightly will find itself in an environment of lower pressure than the one it came from. As a result, the parcel will expand and cool. If the rising parcel cools to a lower temperature than its new surroundings, so that it has a higher density than the surrounding gas, then its lack of buoyancy will cause it to sink back to where it came from. However, if the temperature gradient is steep enough (i. e. the temperature changes rapidly with distance from the center of the star), or if the gas has a very high heat capacity (i. e. its temperature changes relatively slowly as it expands) then the rising parcel of gas will remain warmer and less dense than its new surroundings even after expanding and cooling. Its buoyancy will then cause it to continue to rise. The region of the star in which this happens is the convection zone.

Cowan–Reines neutrino experiment

The Cowan–Reines neutrino experiment was conducted by Clyde L. Cowan and Frederick Reines in 1956. The experiment confirmed the existence of neutrinos. Neutrinos, subatomic particles with no electric charge and very small mass, had been conjectured to be an essential particle in beta decay processes in the 1930s. With neither mass nor charge, such particles appeared to be impossible to detect. The experiment exploited a huge flux of (hypothetical) electron antineutrinos emanating from a nearby nuclear reactor and a detector consisting of large tanks of water. Neutrino interactions with the protons of the water were observed, verifying the existence and basic properties of this particle for the first time.

Granule (solar physics)

Granules on the photosphere of the Sun are caused by convection currents (thermal columns, Bénard cells) of plasma within the Sun's convective zone. The grainy appearance of the solar photosphere is produced by the tops of these convective cells and is called granulation.

The rising part of the granules is located in the center where the plasma is hotter. The outer edge of the granules is darker due to the cooler descending plasma. (The terms darker and cooler are strictly by comparison to the brighter, hotter plasma. Since luminosity increases with the fourth power of temperature, even a small loss of heat produces a large luminosity contrast; this "cooler", "darker" plasma is still far hotter and vastly brighter than a thermite reaction.) In addition to the visible appearance, which would be explained by convective motion, Doppler shift measurements of the light from individual granules provides evidence for the convective nature of the granules.

A typical granule has a diameter on the order of 1,500 kilometers and lasts 8 to 20 minutes before dissipating. At any one time, the Sun's surface is covered by about 4 million granules. Below the photosphere is a layer of "supergranules" up to 30,000 kilometers in diameter with lifespans of up to 24 hours.

Helioseismology

Helioseismology, a term coined by Douglas Gough, is the study of the structure and dynamics of the Sun through its oscillations. These are principally caused by sound waves that are continuously driven and damped by convection near the Sun's surface. It is similar to geoseismology, or asteroseismology (also coined by Gough), which are respectively the studies of the Earth or stars through their oscillations. While the Sun's oscillations were first detected in the early 1960s, it was only in the mid-1970s that it was realised that the oscillations propagated throughout the Sun and could allow scientists to study the Sun's deep interior. The modern field is separated into global helioseismology, which studies the Sun's resonant modes, and local helioseismology, which studies all the waves propagating at the Sun's surface.Helioseismology has contributed to a number of scientific breakthroughs. The most notable was to show the predicted neutrino flux from the Sun could not be caused by flaws in stellar models and must instead be a problem of particle physics. The so-called solar neutrino problem was ultimately resolved by neutrino oscillations.

The experimental discovery of neutrino oscillations was recognized by the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Helioseismology also allowed accurate measurements of the quadrupole (and higher-order) moments of the Sun's gravitational potential, which are consistent with general relativity. The first helioseismic calculations of the Sun's internal rotation profile showed a rough separation into a rigidly-rotating core and differentially-rotating envelope. The boundary layer is now known as the tachocline and is thought to be a key component for the solar dynamo. Although it roughly coincides with the base of the solar convection zone—also inferred through helioseismology—it is conceptually a distinct entity.

Helioseismology benefits most from continuous monitoring of the Sun, which began first with uninterrupted observations from near the South Pole over the southern summer. In addition, observations over multiple solar cycles have allowed helioseismologists to study changes in the Sun's structure over decades. These studies are made possible by global telescope networks like the Global Oscillations Network Group (GONG) and the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON), which have been operating for over 20 years.

Mikheyev–Smirnov–Wolfenstein effect

The Mikheyev–Smirnov–Wolfenstein effect (often referred to as matter effect) is a particle physics process which can act to modify neutrino oscillations in matter. Works in 1978 and 1979 by American physicist Lincoln Wolfenstein led to understanding that the oscillation parameters of neutrinos are changed in matter. In 1985, the Soviet physicists Stanislav Mikheyev and Alexei Smirnov predicted that a slow decrease of the density of matter can resonantly enhance the neutrino mixing. Later in 1986, Stephen Parke of Fermilab, Hans Bethe of Cornell University, and S. Peter Rosen and James Gelb of Los Alamos National Laboratory provided analytic treatments of this effect.

Neutrino

A neutrino ( or ) (denoted by the Greek letter ν) is a fermion (an elementary particle with half-integer spin) that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity. The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small (-ino) that it was long thought to be zero. The mass of the neutrino is much smaller than that of the other known elementary particles. The weak force has a very short range, the gravitational interaction is extremely weak, and neutrinos, as leptons, do not participate in the strong interaction. Thus, neutrinos typically pass through normal matter unimpeded and undetected.Weak interactions create neutrinos in one of three leptonic flavors: electron neutrinos (νe), muon neutrinos (νμ), or tau neutrinos (ντ), in association with the corresponding charged lepton. Although neutrinos were long believed to be massless, it is now known that there are three discrete neutrino masses with different tiny values, but they do not correspond uniquely to the three flavors. A neutrino created with a specific flavor has an associated specific quantum superposition of all three mass states. As a result, neutrinos oscillate between different flavors in flight. For example, an electron neutrino produced in a beta decay reaction may interact in a distant detector as a muon or tau neutrino. Although only differences of squares of the three mass values are known as of 2016, cosmological observations imply that the sum of the three masses must be less than one millionth that of the electron.For each neutrino, there also exists a corresponding antiparticle, called an antineutrino, which also has half-integer spin and no electric charge. They are distinguished from the neutrinos by having opposite signs of lepton number and chirality. To conserve total lepton number, in nuclear beta decay, electron neutrinos appear together with only positrons (anti-electrons) or electron-antineutrinos, and electron antineutrinos with electrons or electron neutrinos.Neutrinos are created by various radioactive decays, including in beta decay of atomic nuclei or hadrons, nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the core of a star or artificially in nuclear reactors, nuclear bombs or particle accelerators, during a supernova, in the spin-down of a neutron star, or when accelerated particle beams or cosmic rays strike atoms. The majority of neutrinos in the vicinity of the Earth are from nuclear reactions in the Sun. In the vicinity of the Earth, about 65 billion (6.5×1010) solar neutrinos per second pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun.For study, neutrinos can be created artificially with nuclear reactors and particle accelerators. There is intense research activity involving neutrinos, with goals that include the determination of the three neutrino mass values, the measurement of the degree of CP violation in the leptonic sector (leading to leptogenesis); and searches for evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, such as neutrinoless double beta decay, which would be evidence for violation of lepton number conservation. Neutrinos can also be used for tomography of the interior of the earth.

Neutrino astronomy

Neutrino astronomy is the branch of astronomy that observes astronomical objects with neutrino detectors in special observatories. Neutrinos are created as a result of certain types of radioactive decay, or nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the Sun, in nuclear reactors, or when cosmic rays hit atoms. Due to their weak interactions with matter, neutrinos offer a unique opportunity to observe processes that are inaccessible to optical telescopes.

Nuclear fusion

In nuclear chemistry, nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as either the release or absorption of energy. This difference in mass arises due to the difference in atomic "binding energy" between the atomic nuclei before and after the reaction. Fusion is the process that powers active or "main sequence" stars, or other high magnitude stars.

A fusion process that produces a nucleus lighter than iron-56 or nickel-62 will generally yield a net energy release. These elements have the smallest mass per nucleon and the largest binding energy per nucleon, respectively. Fusion of light elements toward these releases energy (an exothermic process), while a fusion producing nuclei heavier than these elements will result in energy retained by the resulting nucleons, and the resulting reaction is endothermic. The opposite is true for the reverse process, nuclear fission. This means that the lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, are in general more fusible; while the heavier elements, such as uranium, thorium and plutonium, are more fissionable. The extreme astrophysical event of a supernova can produce enough energy to fuse nuclei into elements heavier than iron.

In 1920, Arthur Eddington suggested hydrogen-helium fusion could be the primary source of stellar energy. Quantum tunneling was discovered by Friedrich Hund in 1929, and shortly afterwards Robert Atkinson and Fritz Houtermans used the measured masses of light elements to show that large amounts of energy could be released by fusing small nuclei. Building on the early experiments in nuclear transmutation by Ernest Rutherford, laboratory fusion of hydrogen isotopes was accomplished by Mark Oliphant in 1932. In the remainder of that decade, the theory of the main cycle of nuclear fusion in stars were worked out by Hans Bethe. Research into fusion for military purposes began in the early 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project. Fusion was accomplished in 1951 with the Greenhouse Item nuclear test. Nuclear fusion on a large scale in an explosion was first carried out on 1 November 1952, in the Ivy Mike hydrogen bomb test.

Research into developing controlled fusion inside fusion reactors has been ongoing since the 1940s, but the technology is still in its development phase.

Orders of magnitude (molar concentration)

This page lists examples of the orders of magnitude of molar concentration. Source values are parenthesized where unit conversions were performed.

Outline of astronomy

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to astronomy:

Astronomy – studies the universe beyond Earth, including its formation and development, and the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects (such as galaxies, planets, etc.) and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth (such as the cosmic background radiation).

Phoebus group

The Phoebus group is an international team of European, Japanese and American scientists aiming at detecting the solar g modes. As of October 5, 2009, the group has finally produced a review summarising the work performed over the past 12 years.

Radiation zone

A radiation zone, or radiative region is a layer of a star's interior where energy is primarily transported toward the exterior by means of radiative diffusion and thermal conduction, rather than by convection. Energy travels through the radiation zone in the form of electromagnetic radiation as photons.

Matter in a radiation zone is so dense that photons can travel only a short distance before they are absorbed or scattered by another particle, gradually shifting to longer wavelength as they do so. For this reason, it takes an average of 171,000 years for gamma rays from the core of the Sun to leave the radiation zone. Over this range, the temperature of the plasma drops from 15 million K near the core down to 1.5 million K at the base of the convection zone.

Solar neutrino

Electron neutrinos are produced in the Sun as a product of nuclear fusion. Solar neutrinos constitute by far the largest flux of neutrinos from natural sources observed on Earth, as compared with e.g. atmospheric neutrinos or the diffuse supernova neutrino background.

Stellar core

A stellar core is the extremely hot, dense region at the center of a star. For an ordinary main sequence star, the core region is the volume where the temperature and pressure conditions allow for energy production through thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium. This energy in turn counterbalances the mass of the star pressing inward; a process that self-maintains the conditions in thermal and hydrostatic equilibrium. The minimum temperature required for stellar hydrogen fusion exceeds 107 K (10 MK), while the density at the core of the Sun is over 100 g cm−3. The core is surrounded by the stellar envelope, which transports energy from the core to the stellar atmosphere where it is radiated away into space.

Sun

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers (864,000 miles), or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System.

Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally and not completely accurately referred to as a yellow dwarf (its light is closer to white than yellow). It formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central mass became so hot and dense that it eventually initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that almost all stars form by this process.

The Sun is roughly middle-aged; it has not changed dramatically for more than four billion years, and will remain fairly stable for more than another five billion years. It currently fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result. This energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape from its core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. In about 5 billion years, when hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to eventually become a red giant. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, and render Earth uninhabitable. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a white dwarf, and no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion.

The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of which is the predominant calendar in use today.

Tachocline

The tachocline is the transition region of Stars of more than 0.3 Solar masses, between the radiative interior and the differentially rotating outer convective zone. It is in the outer third of the Sun (by radius). This causes the region to have a very large shear as the rotation rate changes very rapidly. The convective exterior rotates as a normal fluid with differential rotation with the poles rotating slowly and the equator rotating quickly. The radiative interior exhibits solid-body rotation, possibly due to a fossil field. The rotation rate through the interior is roughly equal to the rotation rate at mid-latitudes, i.e. in-between the rate at the slow poles and the fast equator. Recent results from helioseismology indicate that the tachocline is located at a radius of at most 0.70 times the Solar radius (measured from the core, i.e., the surface is at 1 solar radius), with a thickness of 0.04 times the solar radius. This would mean the area has a very large shear profile that is one way that large scale magnetic fields can be formed.

The geometry and width of the tachocline are thought to play an important role in models of the stellar dynamos by winding up the weaker poloidal field to create a much stronger toroidal field. Recent radio observations of cooler stars and brown dwarfs, which do not have a radiative core and only have a convective zone, demonstrate that they maintain large-scale, solar-strength magnetic fields and display solar-like activity despite the absence of tachoclines. This suggests that the convective zone alone may be responsible for the function of the solar dynamo.The term tachocline was coined in a paper by Edward Spiegel and Jean-Paul Zahn in 1992 by analogy to the oceanic thermocline.

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