Sunny Side Up: Do You Know What the Sun is Made Up Of?

It took researchers several years to realize that the Sun is not just made of hydrogen and helium as it was believed initially, but also has elements like neon and iron in its mass.
Everybody knows that the Sun is at the center of the solar system, but not many people are aware of other facts about it. For instance, very few people must be aware of the fact that the actual color of the Sun is white, and not yellow. It appears to be yellow from the Earth because of atmospheric scattering of the sunlight.

Though basic, such things about the Sun have always eluded the layman's mind. Another basic aspect of this bright star that many people don't seem to know, is its composition. Most people believe that it is made of hydrogen and helium, which is somewhat incomplete considering that other elements also contribute to its mass.

Size of the Sun

Approximately 1,000,000 Earths can fit inside the Sun. Although, it is a vague statement to make, that can give a rough idea about the gigantic size of this celestial body. The diameter of this star is around 865,000 miles, i.e., 109 planets the size of the Earth arranged side by side in a straight line. The most important layers of the Sun are core, photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. The Sun is not just at the center of the solar system, but also accounts for approximately 99.86 percent of its total mass. Scientifically speaking, the mass of the Sun is 1.9891×1030 KG 332 946 Earths.

Composition of the Sun

Basically, the Sun is made up of plasma comprising hydrogen and helium. Around 3/4th of the total mass of the Sun is made up of hydrogen, while most of the remaining 1/4th is helium. Besides these, elements like iron, carbon, neon, oxygen, nickel, chromium, sulfur, magnesium, silicon, and calcium are also found in trace amounts in the Sun.

Hydrogen, which accounts for approximately 74 percent of its mass, makes up 92 percent of its total volume. On the other hand, helium, which accounts for 24 percent, makes up only 7 percent of its volume. It's worth noting that the atoms of both, hydrogen and helium are not neutral, but in varying degrees of ionization. The hydrogen and helium present in the Sun were produced as a result of the Big Bang. Among the two, hydrogen was the first element to be formed.

Other elements mentioned above roughly constitute about 1 percent of the total composition of the solar body. Though they are in trace amounts, these elements are of great importance for the Sun. These elements were produced in the stars present in the galaxy billions of years ago, even before the Sun and other stars were formed. The gigantic stars used enormous amount of their hydrogen and converted it to helium by the process of nuclear fusion. This helium was eventually, converted to carbon, oxygen, and several other elements as a desperate measure to produce more energy.

Towards the end of their lives, these gigantic stars exploded in a process referred to as supernova, and the elements present in them were scattered in the Universe. As a result of this, when the new stars, such as the Sun, were formed, they were already contaminated by these elements.