# Calculating the Sun’s Energy Assignment

Calculating the Sun’s EnergySummaryThe sun is a main sequence star (G-2, yellow dwarf) that is the closest stellar object to our planet. It has long been the inspiration for humans throughout civilization, as the main life-sustaining source of light and heat; without the sun’s energy, life as we know it would not exist. In this lesson, students will be able to explain the fusion reactions that are vital to the sun’s existence, measure the energy output of the sun, and compare the sun’s energy to conventional fossil-fuel resources here on earth.
Keywords
Solar wind, helium, hydrogen, fusion, core, sunspot, plasma, solar eclipse, radiation
Learning Objectives
After this lesson, students should be able to:
Describe how the sun was formed, it’s current stage of stellar evolution.Identify solar features, including sun spots, solar flares, eclipse .Quantify the energy output of the sun, and compare/contrast solar energy to other forms used here on earth.Introduction / Motivation
The Sun is a G2 main sequence star, and is the central feature around which our solar system is arranged. This fiery ball of hydrogen and helium is at least 4.5 billion years old, and contains over 99% of all the matter in our solar system; a million Earths could fit within the Sun! With a diameter of over 1.39 x 106 km and a mass of 1.99 x 1030 kg (330,00 Earths!), the Sun is a dynamic star with its own atmosphere that is layered with denser gasses at its core. The photosphere is the portion of the start that produces visible light, allowing us to see the radiant energy even though it lies beneath two additional atmospheric layers. Beyond the photosphere is the chromosphere, which is only visible when the photosphere is blocked, such as during a solar eclipse. The choromosphere can also be imaged using filters. The outermost region of the Sun is its’ corona, which extends many millions of kilometers beyond the Sun’s photosphere. The visible light seen in the corona is only a fraction of what is emitted from the photosphere, though the corona often shows up brilliantly during a solar eclipse (see figure 22.2). It appears as star-burst shaped spicules that flare-out from the Sun in all directions. Some of this energy can escape the Sun’s atmosphere, flowing into space as in streamers of protons and electrons, known as solar wind.dr.jpgThe Sun’s corona peeks out during the 1998 total solar eclipse in Antigua, West Indies. This is a phenomenon known as “the diamond ring” effect, which takes place just seconds before totality. Photo credit: Kelly KnightUnits of MeasurementDistances are measured in light-years (ly), or the AU (astronomical unit: the distance from the Earth to the Sun). Energy units include BTU’s, kilowatt-hours.For a video of the Sun’s layers and images of solar flares, click here:https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/videos/index.htmlSolar Energy:Visible light is part of the electromagnetic (EM) radiation (EMR) that is emitted by objects. The wavelengths of radiation emitted include dangerous cosmic rays, X-rays, radio waves, infra-red and ultra-violet radiation. Visible light is a small part of the full spectrum of EMR. For our sun, the EM radiation is created by processes such as hydrogen fusion—a thermonuclear reaction. In nebulae, gasses are heated enough to incandesce (glow) much the same as a fluorescent light bulb does. The sources of heat for glowing nebula may be EM radiation from nearby stars or from hear generated by compression of these same gasses.Specialized Terms
WordDefinitionAstronomical Unit (AU)The average distance between the Earth and the Sun: 1.5 x 108 km = 93 million miles.ChromosphereThe layer in the solar atmosphere between the photosphere and corona.CoronaThe sun’s outermost atmosphere.Hydrogen fusionThe nuclear-reaction that fuses hydrogen atoms, producing heat and Helium.LuminosityThe electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from a star or other stellar object. Sometimes expressed as a flux, or amount per unit area.PhotosphereThe portion of the sun’s atmosphere where visible light as at is maxiumum.PlasmaA hot, ionized gas.Solar windThe expulsion of electrons and protons from the sun; occurs in a radial direction.SunspotIsolated ‘cool spots’ in the sun’s photosphere, caused by protrusionsof the the sun’s magnetic field.Watt’s Better? Solar Energy or Fossil Fuels?: This exercise will walk students through basic energy calculations that investigate the different energy values from solar radiation and the burning of fossil fuels.
http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtmlhttp://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/index.html/http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/http://solar-center.standford.eduhttp://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/sun-article/http://nineplanets.org/sol.htmlAppendix: Sample electricity bill

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