Earth - Our Love Affair With The Sun

When you stand on Earth and look up at the Sun it looks small. It's easy to overlook and even easier to have no conception of how important it is to the existence of our planet. We can't help it. We're human beings and we have a massive ego when it comes to everything we touch. We actually think it's about us! We can't comprehend anything that is bigger than our own small existence and to grasp the immensity of the world we live in doesn't seem to be wired into our genetic codes. - But consider some of the information I've copied in this blog, including the sheer beauty of it all. It's really quite a wonderful story.

This is an image of the Sun. It is obviously not a simple ball of fire in the sky that shows up each day to warm our Earth and make us happy. In fact, it is an angry, monstrous ball of pure violent heat energy that is in constant turmoil.  It's not small at all - 1.3 million times the volume of Earth (330000 times its mass) although it is only 25% the density of our planet - consisting mainly of a boiling plasma that is made up mainly of hydrogen and helium.


The Sun releases approximately the equivalent of 4.3 million metric tons per second in the form of light energy. Now that is a lot (about 6 trillion Hiroshima bombs!) but compared to the Sun's total mass? It's nothing. The Sun weighs about two octillion metric tons (that's 27 zeros). At this rate, it would take about ten times the present age of the universe for the Sun to lose about 1% of its mass. In other words, this mass loss is negligible.

Incidentally, the Sun also loses mass more directly, in the form of the Solar wind. The mass loss rate is comparable, approximately one third the rate of mass loss through radiation, or about 1.5 million metric tons a second.

But even combined, the mass loss at this rate amounts to less than 0.1% of the total mass of the Sun through its expected lifetime.

Now mind you, the mass loss will actually accelerate late in the Sun's life cycle. As the Sun consumes its hydrogen fuel, it will become larger, radiating more heat, and ultimately, also losing substantial parts of its outer atmosphere before running out of fuel altogether and collapsing into a slowly cooling white dwarf.


What Causes the Sun to Give off Heat?     (greatly simplified description - please forgive me).

The core of the sun is so hot (15 million degrees Celsius ) and there is so much pressure that nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms takes place. The process is carried out by a proton-proton chain reaction whereby the Sun starts with protons (hydrogen nuclei), and through a series of progressive steps turns them into helium4 atoms. The scale of this energy conversion is beyond our comprehension. Every second 600 million tons of hydrogen (H) is converted into helium helium.  

In the fusion process approximately .70% of the hydrogen is transformed into pure heat energy (equivalent to creating 4 million tons per second) which "pours out" of the centre in the form of ultra hot particles called photons.  Because of the extreme temperatures in the core, this energy is emitted predominantly as gamma ray radiation. As this high energy radiation is deadly to humans one would ask why are we not bombarded on Earth by gamma ray radiation?  It is because gamma ray photons first need to escape from the Sun's core into the outer edge, and then finally from the surface to Earth. On the way to the surface these gamma photons are colliding with matter constantly, resulting in a photon diffusion process which progressively decreases their internal energy from the extreme highs of the gamma range to the more moderate energy levels we receive on Earth. 

It actually takes the average gamma ray photon about 170,000 years to diffuse out of the radiative zone. Once a single gamma ray photon actually diffuses outward to the surface as a result of constant collisions it has been fragmented from its original state into millions of smaller cooler photons that need to be disposed of.  The Sun's surface, now at a temperature of only 5726 C due to this accumulation of masses of these different sized photons, achieves this by radiating that pure heat energy into outer space  in the form of  a constant stream of variable frequency electromagnetic waves.. 

Parts of the Sun: This illustration shows the different parts of the Sun, from the hot core where the energy is generated through regions where energy is transported outward, first by radiation, then by convection, and then out through the solar atmosphere. The parts of the atmosphere are also labeled the photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. Some typical features in the atmosphere are shown, such as coronal holes and prominences. (credit: modification of work by NASA/Goddard)

 All of the energy from the Sun that actually contacts the Earth (most of it bypasses us) arrives as part of a large collection of variable frequency waves known collectively as the electromagnetic radiation spectrum. This graph of the Sun's variable energy rays is divided into groups according to their wave frequency ( X rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared rays and radio waves) of which 99% of the total are in the form of ultraviolet light, visible light and infrared rays (more commonly known as "heat" to humans because we can actually "feel" it). 

Not all the electromagnetic energy of the Sun actually reaches the Earth's surface. The total solar spectrum of photon based rays  is first filtered by a variety of Earth based mechanisms until approximately only 51% of the original energy reaches the surface and is absorbed -  warming the surface and the atmosphere above it. 

We humans on Earth are able to experience this solar spectrum by sunburning under UV, seeing objects that reflect visible light and being warmed by the infrared light.  X rays and radio waves are "invisible" to us. As mentioned before, gamma rays are pretty much eliminated within the Sun's core as they travel to the surface and so they are not present or are insignificant. 




In addition to the electromagnetic radiation radiated out from the Sun, it literally "bleeds" its contents as fusion affected plasma physically escapes to outer space in a form commonly called the Solar Wind. The Solar Wind is a stream of energetic particles ejected by the Sun  (app. 1.5 million metric tons / sec.) flowing outward from the Sun through the solar system at speeds as high as 900 km/s and at a temperature of 1 million degrees (Celsius). It is made of plasma which includes electrons and protons from hydrogen along with atomic nuclei like helium, otherwise known as alpha particles. There are also traces of 'heavy ions' and atomic nuclei of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, neon and magnesium. 

There is a growing school of thought that Solar wind could be a more important factor in determining Earth's climate than electromagnetic radiation. It does this by affecting incoming cosmic rays that seed cloud formation and by causing changes to Earth's rotation that affect major ocean currents. See blog listed below for more detail:


Sunspots are dark, planet-sized regions that appear on the "surface" of the Sun. Sunspots are "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them. A large sunspot might have a temperature of about 3,700° C.  This is much lower than the 5,500° C temperature of the bright photosphere that surrounds the sunspots.

Sunspots are only dark in contrast to the bright face of the Sun. If you could cut an average sunspot out of the Sun and place it in the night sky, it would be about as bright as a full moon. Sunspots have a lighter outer section called the penumbra, and a darker middle region named the umbra.

Sunspots are caused by the Sun's magnetic field welling up to the photosphere, the Sun's visible "surface". The powerful magnetic fields around sunspots produce active regions on the Sun, which often lead to solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). The solar activity of flares and CMEs are called "solar storms".

Sunspots form over periods lasting from days to weeks, and can last for weeks or even months. The average number of spots that can be seen on the face of the Sun is not always the same, but goes up and down in a cycle. Historical records of sunspot counts show that this sunspot cycle has an average period of about eleven years. 

Creation of Sunspots - Zharkova has done ground breaking research that shows the Sun is an "extremely stable oscillator" in terms of the way it creates and manipulates its magnetic wave flux. Because the Sun has been shown to "roll over" in a way that the poles shift from north to south and back to north again over 22 years (ie. 2 - 11 yr. cycles) it has been also been shown that the magnetic flux also "rolls over" - moving throughout the core and interacting in ways that create sunspots over - you guessed it - 11 year cycles. 

Connection to Earth - These interactions occur at the times where maximum Sunspots have been observed and noted and are very regular, even though the amplitude of the waves is not guaranteed to be the same - as has also been observed with Sunspot counts.  The correlation is too regular to be coincidence. It can only be that the pole reversals, the magnetic wave patterns, appearance of Sunspots, Solar wind, and changes to Earth's climate must all be connected. 

Sun spots are HUGE - It's hard enough for humans to grasp the size of our own planet, let alone the Sun but it is even harder to see that those relatively small dots on the Sun's surface are actually the size of our own planet or even bigger. The image below shows some sunspots with the Earth superimposed so as to show the relative size of the two. It also reinforces the statement above regarding the size of the Earth relative to the Sun itself. 

These are MASSIVE solar storms being belched out from the depths of that giant inferno - the Sun.  They are throwing huge amounts of debris at out Earth in the form of Solar wind (something the IPCC does not want to consider). How can we say they have no effect on our ecosystems and our climate? It makes no sense.


The Sun certainly is not in a steady state. It does not "burn" like well-tuned propane lamp putting out its electromagnetic radiation that never wavers nor its solar winds that never vary in strength or volume. The sheer violence of the images above attests to the fact that the Sun is capable of violent upswings in heat and plasma output. This is however tempered by other periods when it is quite quiescent, showing little of the telltale sunspots and ejecting  lower volumes of its contents into outer space and to our solar system.  The two "moods" of the Sun can be seen in the images below showing Sunspot activity at its extremes. 


Violent activity by the Sun as seen by high levels of Sunspots co-exists with increased levels of Solar Wind. This Solar Wind interacts with the Earth's geomagnetic field and stimulates a number of changes in the planets behaviour which translate into climate changes tending towards hot conditions. Quiet states of the Sun do the opposite, reversing the effects on the Earth and bringing on climate changes tending towards cooler conditions. Interestingly, these changes appear to occur regularly on a 60 year cycle. This is discussed in detail another blog, accessed by the button which follows:


Four times denser than the Sun, the Earth is a different structure indeed than its source of life. The Earth is a massive permanent magnet with a solid crystalline iron/nickel core within molten layers of iron and silicates based molten rock before reaching the surface we know - a very thin crust on which our land and ocean masses float. 

The Earth is 1.08 quadrillion cubic kilometers (259 trillion cubic miles) in volume (yet is still only 1/330000 the volume of the Sun). The molten rock just beneath our thin skin ranges in temperature from 1400C near the surface to 6000 C near the core. The planet has 1.29 billion cubic km (310 million cubic miles) of ocean. Our atmosphere is .00008% of total planet mass and of that carbon dioxide is only .04% - of which human added carbon dioxide is only 4% of that small amount. 

The striking thing about the image above is how thin that upper crust really is. We're not really all that far from the really massive content of violent, molten substrata, and yet we know nothing about it really. Instead we focus on our thin skin and in particular on our so called ability to change the dynamics of that skin through our global activities driven by petrofuels consumption. 


Earth's Crust

The crust is the thinnest of the layers of earth. The thickness varies depending on where you are on earth, with oceanic crust being 5-10 km and continental mountain ranges being up to 30-45 km thick. Thin oceanic crust is denser than the thicker continental crust and therefore 'floats' lower in the mantle as compared to continental crust. You will find some of the thinnest oceanic crust along mid ocean ridges where new crust is actively being formed. 

The temperatures within Earth's crust will vary from air temperatures at the surface to approximately 870 degrees Celsius in deeper sections. At this temperature, you begin to melt rock and form the below-lying mantle. 

In broad terms, oceanic crust is made up of basalt and continental crust is made up of rocks similar to granite. Below the crust is a solid relatively cooler portion of the upper mantle that is combined with the crust to make the lithosphere layer. The lithosphere is physically distinct from the below-lying layers due to its cool temperatures and typically extends 70-100 km in depth.

Below the lithosphere is the asthenosphere layer, a much hotter and malleable portion of the upper mantle. The asthenosphere begins at the bottom of the lithosphere and extends approximately 700 km into the Earth. The asthenosphere acts as the lubricating layer below the lithosphere that allows the lithosphere to move over the Earth's surface.

Earth's Mantle

The mantle is the layer of the earth that lies below the crust and is by far the largest layer making up 84% of Earth's volume. 

The mantle acts similar to plastic and at very high temperatures and pressures the rock is deformable at geologic timescales. This deformation causes a convection like process in the mantle where you have larige-scale upwelling and downwelling zones.

The mantle extends down to 3000 km into the Earth's surface Temperatures that range from 500 to 900 degrees Celsius in the upper portion to over 4,000 degrees Celsius near the core boundary. 

Earth's mantle is believed to be composed of bulk mineralogy similar to peridotite,  best known for its yellowish green colour . Its chemical composition includes iron and magnesium, and iron is the cause of its attractive yellowish green colors. The gem often occurs in volcanic rocks called basalts, which are rich in these two elements.

Earth's Outer Core

The outer core is the liquid largely iron layer of the earth that lies below the mantle. Geologists have confirmed that the outer core is liquid due to seismic surveys of Earth's interior. The outer core is 2,300 km thick and goes down to approximately 3,400 km into the earth. 

Based on a number of indicators, geologists believe the outer core is 80% iron, some nickel and a number of different lighter elements. When Earth was just beginning to cool billions of years ago, heavier elements sunk down into the center of the Earth, while less dense elements rose to the surface. Therefore, we see a general increase in density, as you get closer to the center of the Earth.

The outer core is hot enough to be melted but not under quite enough pressure to make the iron solid again, as seen in the inner core. The temperature of the outer core ranges from about 4,030 to 5,730 degrees Celsius. 

Amazingly, the outer core is fluid enough and low enough in viscosity that it may spin faster than the entire Earth. This differential velocity of spinning, along with convection and turbulent flow of the iron outer core, creates Earth's magnetic field.

Earth's Inner Core

The inner core is the centermost layer of Earth and is in many ways similar to the outer core. It is also primarily iron and nickel and has a radius of about 1,220 km. The differentiation between the outer core and inner core is density driven. The pressures become high enough that despite very high temperatures, the inner core is solid. It is also enriched in unusual heavy elements including gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and tungsten.

Temperatures reach up to 5,400 degrees Celsius and pressures up to 360 gigapascal. The inner core is about 70% of the Moon's radius and is approximately the same temperature as the surface of the Sun!

Core Heat Contribution to Global Temperature.

Fission plays a large part in keeping the Earth's core temperatures at such elevated levels. The 259 trillion cubic miles of solid material that forms our planet is 4 ppm of Uranium fuel, equal to 2.9 million cubic kilometers (700,000 cubic miles). Each molecule of uranium that undergoes nuclear fission produces two million times the energy of a TNT molecule and so the heat produced by this reaction is phenomenal. 

Earth's fission energy is substantial and variable throughout the inner cores. The internal energy is not included in any of the IPCC models for global warming. Yet dramatic changes in the fission reactions are thought to be the cause of long term climate events like the Ice Ages. Looking over the past 500000 years the Milankovich cycles show 3 distinct 100000 year long glacial periods, separated by 12,000 year long interglacial periods. This is attributed to changes in the fission driven mechanisms that cooled Earth and climate from within the core as opposed to minor changes in Sun output and certainly not to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Looking back farther to 300 million and 450 million years ago the Earth was almost entirely frozen when ice covered the entire planet except for the 30 degree equatorial band. Polar caps extended south to Miami and north to Rio de Janeiro. Core driven, cyclic human disaster lurking literally below our feet, separated only by a thin skin of cooled crusted magma.

Magnetic Properties and their influence on the Sun.