Only 55% of all Americans know the sun is a star. Maybe the thought of it as a “falling star” is too much to bear. But, stars don’t fall, they just explode. Our Sun is an ordinary G2 star, one of more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy.
The Sun is about 4.5 billion years old. Since its birth it has used up about half of the hydrogen in its core. Everyday the sun loses 360 million tons of weight. No problem, for a while anyway; “it will continue to radiate ‘peacefully’ for another 5 billion years or so. Eventually it will run out of hydrogen fuel and be forced into radical changes which, though commonplace by stellar standards, will result in the total destruction of the Earth.”
As stars get older they get redder and swell to many times their original size. Most atoms are made in stars and in the explosion of stars.
The Sun is by far the largest object in the solar system. It contains more than 99.8% of the total mass of the Solar System (Jupiter contains most of the rest–its great red spot is a whirling cloud bigger than the Earth. The eight other planets could fit inside Jupiter.) The sun is 109 times bigger than the Earth. The sun’s core checks in at 15.6 million degrees.
“Falling stars” are meteors, objects falling through and into the Earth’s atmosphere. The friction between the Earth’s atmosphere and the speeding rock causes the rock to burn up and produce light (usually at altitudes of between 25 and 75 miles above earth). Most meteors would fit in your pocket though they vary in size from specks of dust to chunks bigger than a car.
Earth gets as close as 91 million miles to the sun; the next closest star is Proxima Centuri, 4.2 light years or about 247 trillion miles away. It’s a small pup, 0.07 times the sun’s radius and 18,000 times fainter.
These numbers make me realize just how small and far away I am; I guess we’re all out in the boonies trying to hold it all together–striving to keep mother earth alive for her final fireworks and curtain call.
We’ve had atomic bombs for fifty years, pollution for a hundred more. Those two are deadly enough. Sadly, religion pops up quite often in the catastrophic category. The different interpretations are natural, the conflicts some imagine, brutal.
We have about five billion years of sunlight left, if we can just hold it all together.
(I wrote this in 1998 so if you see any corrections that need to be made, please advise.)