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of the Sun | National Geographic Society
The sun is the closest star to Earth. Even at a distance of 150 million kilometers (93 million miles), its gravitational pull holds the planet in orbit. It radiates light and heat, or solar energy, which makes it possible for life to exist on
to grow. Animals, including humans, need plants for food and the oxygen they produ
. Without heat from the
would freeze. There would be no winds, o
currents, or clouds to transport water.
has existed as long as the
—about 5 billion years. While people have not been around that long, they have been using
in a variety of ways for thousands of years.
is essential to agriculture—cultivating land, producing crops, and raising livestock. Developed about 10,000 years ago,
had a key role in the rise of civilization. Solar techniques, such as crop rotation, increased harvests. Drying food using
from spoiling. This surplus of food allowed for denser populations and structured societies.
around the world positioned buildings to fa
south to gather heat and light. They used
and skylights for the same reason, as well as to allow for air circulation. These are elements of solar architecture. Other aspects include using selective shading and choosing building materials with thermal mass, meaning they store heat, such as stone and concrete. Today, computer programs make applications easier and more precise.
The greenhouse is another early solar development. By converting
make it possible to grow plants out of season and in climates that may not be suited for them. One of the earliest
dates to 30
, before glass was even invented. Constructed from translucent sheets of mica, a thin mineral, it was built for the Roman emperor Tiberius, who wanted to be able to eat cucumbers all year. The general technique is the same today, although there have been many improvements to increase the variety and amount of
Once food is harvested, solar energy can be used to cook it. The first solar box cooker was built in 1767 by Horace de Saussure, a Swiss physicist. It reached temperatures of 87.8 degrees Celsius (190 degrees Fahrenheit) and was used to cook fruit. Today, there are many different types of solar cookers being used for cooking, drying and pasteurization, which slows the growth of microbes in food. Because they do not use fossil fuels, they are safe, do not produce pollution or cause deforestation.
Solar cookers are used in many parts of the world in growing numbers. It is estimated that there are half a million installed in India alone. India has the world’s two largest solar cooking systems, which can prepare food for 25,000 people daily. According to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “Since exhaustible energy sources in the country are limited, there is an urgent need to focus attention on development of renewable energy sources and use of energy efficient technologies.”
In Nicaragua, a modified
is being used to sterilize medical equipment at clinics.
Solar thermal energy can be used to heat water. First introdu
in the late 1800s, the solar water heater was a big improvement over stoves that burned wood or coal because it was cleaner and cost less to operate. They were very popular for American homes in
, including Arizona, Florida, and California. However, in the early 1900s, low-cost oil and natural gas became available and solar water systems began to be repla
. Today, they are not only popular again; they are becoming the norm in some countries, including China, Gree
, and Japan. They are even required to be used in any new construction in Australia, Israel, and Spain.
Besides heating water,
can be used to make it potable, or suitable for drinking. One method is solar disinfection (SODIS). Developed in the 1980s, SODIS involves filling plastic soda bottles with water then exposing them to
for several hours. This pro
the viruses, bacteria and protozoa in water. More than 2 million people in 28 developing nations use this method daily for their drinking water.
Solar power—the conversion of
into electricity—is yet another application of solar technology. This can be done in a number of ways. The two most common are photovoltaic (solar
) and con
. The a
of power generated by each
is very low. Therefore, large numbers of
must be grouped together, like the panels
on the roof of a house, to generate enough power.
The first solar
was constructed in the 1880s. The earliest major application was on the American satellite Vanguard I, launched in 1958. A radio transmitter powered by solar
operated for about seven years; one using conventional batteries lasted only 20 days. Sin
have become the established power sour
for satellites, including those used in the telecommunications industry.
are used for everything from calculators and watches to homes, commercial buildings, and even stadiums. Kaohsiung World Stadium in Taiwan, completed in 2009 to host the World Games, has more than 8,800 solar panels on its roof. Charles Lin, director of Taiwan’s Bureau of Public Works, said, “The stadium’s
panels will make the venue self-sufficient in
needs.” When the stadium is not in use, it can power 80 per
of the surrounding neighborhood.
, which use
technology uses the
’s heat. Lenses or mirrors focus
into a small beam that can be used to operate a b
. That produ
steam to run turbines to generate
. This method will be used at the Solana Generating Station, which is being built by the APS utility company outside of Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States. When completed in 2012, Solana will be one of the largest
stations in the world. On
operating at full capacity, it will serve 70,000 homes.
“This is a major milestone for Arizona in our efforts to increase the a
available in the United States,” said former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
There are some challenges with
. First, it is intermittent, or not continuous. When there is no
—at night, for example—power cannot be generated. In order to provide continuous power, either storage or other energy sour
, such as
power, must be used. Second, while both
can be used virtually anywhere, the equipment they require takes up a lot of spa
. Installation, ex
for on existing structures, can have a negative impact on the ecosystem by displacing plants and wildlife. Lastly, the cost to collect,
is very high. However, as technological advan
are made and demand rises, the costs are dropping.
, such as
most of our electric and engine power. They also produ
almost all of our
. Plus, they are non-renewable, meaning there is a limited supply.
, on the other hand, offers free and clean energy in abundan
. In fact, it gives much more energy than we can ever possibly use. The only questions are how and when we will take full advantage of it.
Extra Information About describe the sun’s role in the sustainability of earth’s environment That You May Find Interested
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The Power of the Sun | National Geographic Society
Sun | National Geographic Society
1. The Sun Provides Energy
How Does the Sun Affect Our Climate?
Frequently Asked Questions About describe the sun’s role in the sustainability of earth’s environment
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic describe the sun’s role in the sustainability of earth’s environment, then this section may help you solve it.
What part does the Sun play in maintaining the environment on Earth?
Plants require sunlight to grow, animals, including humans, depend on plants for food and the oxygen they produce, and Earth would freeze without the sun’s heat, making it possible for life to exist on Earth.
What function does the Sun serve on Earth?
Without the sun’s heat and light, life on Earth would not be possible; it controls the weather, ocean currents, seasons, and climate, as well as providing the energy for plants to be able to photosynthesise.
What role does the Sun play in your life and the world around you?
Without the Sun’s heat and light, the Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock; instead, the Sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, creates our weather patterns, and provides energy to the growing green plants that sustain life on Earth by producing food and oxygen.
What part does the Sun play in an ecosystem’s energy cycle?
3.1 The primary energy source for organisms and the ecosystems of which they are a part is sunlight, which is used by producers like plants, algae, and cyanobacteria to create organic matter from carbon dioxide and water. This establishes the start of energy flow through almost all food webs.
How can we harness the sun’s energy to produce renewable energy?
Large-scale power plants that use concentrated solar power (CSP) typically have a field of mirrors that direct rays to a tall, thin tower. When the rays hit the tower, they heat the fluid inside, creating steam that turns a turbine and produces electricity.
How does the sun contribute to the Earth’s ability to support life? How does this relate to the planet’s inherent greenhouse effect?
In the daytime, Earth’s surface warms up and cools at night, releasing heat back into the atmosphere, but some of the heat is trapped by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, keeping our Earth an average temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius).
What does the sun mean to Earth, specifically?
The energy of the sun helps in crop growth, and crops depend on the sun to grow and produce their own food. In addition, the energy of the sun also warms our planet earth, which would have been a very cold planet without the sun, incapable of supporting life.
How does the sun fuel the planet with energy?
Solar energy is produced by nuclear fusion, which takes place in the sun and is known as a PP (proton-proton) chain reaction. Fusion takes place when protons of hydrogen atoms violently collide and fuse to create a helium atom in the sun’s core.
Quiz: Why is the sun essential to life on Earth?
Without the energy from the sun, life would not be possible on Earth. It allows producers to create chemical energy that powers all cellular functions. It also provides thermal energy that maintains an ideal temperature that is suitable for supporting life.
What will occur if sunlight is not present on Earth?
Earth would be desolate without sunlight; there wouldn’t be any plants, animals, or humans; there wouldn’t be any other form of life; and there wouldn’t be any fossil fuels like coal, oil, or natural gas to produce energy.
What are the sun’s four purposes?
We use the energy contained in them to generate electricity, heat our homes, run our cars, and prepare food.