Sun  is
a giant fusion reactor busily engaged in the conversion of
hydrogen (at present approximately 70% by mass) to helium (at present
approximately 28%), a giver of life (electromagnetic radiation
translates into heat and light, both being instrumental in
photosynthesis) and the center of the Solar
Its mass is approximately 99% of the Solar System's total, yet with a
diameter of 1,390,000 kilometers, a core temperature of 15,000,000
Celsius and a surface temperature of 5,500 Celsius  it is by
galactic standards fairly ordinary.
Categorized as a Population
1 (heavy element-rich) yellow dwarf, it's at four and a half billion
years old almost halfway through its main sequence. Eventually, upon
exhausting its hydrogen, it will expand into a red giant enveloping the
inner planets before ejecting its outer layers and forming a planetary
nebula. At the center of this glowing shell of ionized gas will be a
tremendously hot stellar core, a remnant which will eventually cool and
become a white dwarf. Ultimately, its remaining heat having dissipated,
all that will be left is a burned out ember, a black dwarf. 
The Sun has been deified by many cultures throughout the course of
human history: it was Helios the son of Hyperion and Theia to the
Greeks, Sol to the Romans and Aten (or Aton) during ancient Egypt's
18th dynasty and the reign of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten).
exception being sunspots, giant areas on the Sun's surface of reduced
temperature (3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius). The visible manifestation
of intense magnetic activity which inhibits heat transfer, they appear
as dark blotches when compared to the surrounding photosphere.
Our sun’s magnetic cycle peaks every 22 years, sunspot activity every
11. Both events are set to occur in 2013. Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)
trigger geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) - high energy particles that
can disrupt power lines. Since the 1970s the spider web of transmission
lines that crisscross the industrialized world has grown enormously.
NASA warns that these interconnected networks acting as antennas can be
energized by solar flares that could blackout continents for months,
full recovery taking years.
the last one and a half centuries there have been two massive CMEs. The
“Carrington Event” of 1859 caused the Northern Lights to appear as far
south as Hawaii, while a second GMD, in 1921, lit up skies in the
northern hemisphere as far south as the West Indies. Both flares caused
intermittent telegraph outages worldwide.
We’ve come a long way
since then, but today’s technology instead of being more resilient is
much less so. Giant solar flares could easily fry the circuitry of
satellites, banking machines, GPS, television, computers, radio the
internet and more, and with nuclear reactors (remember Fukushima)
failing along with the grid we could even revert (at lest temporarily)
to a pre-electrical/electronic/industrial society. (In March of 1989 a
90 second solar blast left six million Canadians without power for nine
hours, baked transformers in the United Kingdom and triggered
irregularities in nuclear and non nuclear fueled facilities across the
On February 11, 2010, NASA launched a
revolutionary eight hundred milion dollar spacecraft called the Solar
Dynamics Observatory (SDO) into Earth orbit, where it will study our
sun from a circular geosynchronous vantage point of some 22,300 miles
(36,000 km) for five and a quarter years using three very high tech
instruments: the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), the
Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and the Extreme Ultraviolet
Variability Experiment (EVE). The main goal of the mission is to get a
better understanding of how the Sun works, thereby allowing more
accurate forcasting of space weather and the disruptive solar storms
which can pose a threat to astronauts and play havoc with satellites,
communications and electrical power grids.
In the Spring of
2011, two countries, the UK and the US announced plans to mandate
“controlled power cuts” to protect the grid in the event of a massive
power emergency. This islanding of the system is intended as a last
resort to both limit the extent of the problem and safeguard equipment.
the past is any indicator it’s not enough: In July of 2012 a
terrifyingly close call, a solar event on the order of Carrington that
missed us by a mere nine days. Should Earth
have been in the line of fire the effects could have been catastrophic.
 At present the universe is believed to be too young for black
dwarfs to exist.
Copyright © 2006-2017
All rights reserved