The Sun is our nearest star!

It took thousands of years for us to realize this simple fact, but now we can use it to our advantage as we study other stars in the universe. Nothing beats having a close-up example of something to study, that otherwise looks only like a spot of light in the night sky! We have a ring-side seat in our own solar system to explore one of the most fascinating kinds of objects in our universe.

Basics: The Sun gives us light and heat to warm our planet Earth. It is a huge ball of gas 100 times bigger than Earth. The temperature at the surface is nearly 6,000 degrees Centigrade. The gases move at thousands of miles an hour. You can't stand on the surface of the Sun even if you could protect yourself. The Sun is a huge ball of heated gas with no solid surface. The Sun's surface is always moving. Sometimes storms bigger than the size of Earth can send gas and energy flowing into space.

  Watch a Prominence Movie

  Look at an Enlarged Picture

The Surface: On the surface of the Sun, gases move in a rolling motion called convection. You can see the same kind of motion by looking at the water in a boiling pot of water. As you ride the solar convection you find yourself swimming around with sunspots and other odd things. Suddenly, like some enormous earthquake, the gases around you start to move violently. Everything around you begins to move away from the Sun in a huge cloud of hot gas!

 Watch a Solar Surface Movie

 Look at an Enlarged Picture

Storms: You are part of a huge cloud of gas that starts out over 10 times bigger than the entire Earth. It grows bigger and bigger as it moves away from the Sun. The bubble will travel through space at nearly a million miles an hour. Scientists call this a Coronal Mass Ejection or just 'CME' for short! If your car could travel as fast as a CME, you could take a cross-country trip from New York to San Francisco in about 15 seconds! The cloud you are riding is shaped like a gigantic gas bubble that is hollow inside. We are lucky, here on Earth, that very few of these gigantic storm clouds are shot towards the Earth.

 Watch a CME Movie

 Look at an Enlarged Picture

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