10 how large is the sun compared to other stars Ideas

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role=”button” tabindex=”0″>1:11How big is our sun compared to the other vast stars in our cosmos? This short clip might just get you thinking on the level.YouTube · WondersOfTheStars · Jun 9, 2014
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How big is the sun? : sun and Earth



(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is the largest object in the solar system, but how big is the sun when compared to the rest of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy?  The sun is classified as medium-sized among these hundreds of billions of stars.

Radius, diameter and circumference

The sun is nearly a perfect sphere. Its equatorial diameter and its polar diameter differ by only 6.2 miles (10 km). The mean radius of the sun is 432,450 miles (696,000 kilometers), which makes its diameter about 864,938 miles (1.392 million km). You could line up 109 Earths across the face of the sun, according to NASA (opens in new tab). The sun’s circumference is about 2,715,396 miles (4,370,006 km).

It may be the biggest thing in this neighborhood, but the sun is just average compared to other stars. Betelgeuse, a red giant, is about 700 times bigger than the sun and about 14,000 times brighter.

“We have found stars that are 100 times bigger in diameter than our sun. Truly those stars are enormous,” NASA says on its SpacePlace website (opens in new tab). “We have also seen stars that are just a tenth the size of our sun.”

According to NASA’s solar scientist C. Alex Young (opens in new tab), if the sun were hollow, it would take about one million Earths to fill it.

It’s possible that the sun is even larger than previously thought. Xavier Jubier, an engineer and solar eclipse researcher, creates detailed models of solar and lunar eclipses to determine precisely where the moon’s shadow would fall during the solar eclipse. But when he matched actual photos and historical observations with the models, he found precise eclipse shapes only made sense if he scaled up the sun’s radius by a few hundred kilometers.

Even missions like NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and measurements of the inner planets across the face of the sun don’t refine the star’s radius as precisely as desired.

sun

This image of the sun was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in 2015. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

“It’s harder than you think just to put a ruler on these images and figure out how big the sun is — [SDO] doesn’t have enough precision to nail this down,” NASA researcher Ernie Wright told Space.com. “Similarly, with the Mercury and Venus transits, it turns out [a measurement based on those is] not quite as precise as you’d like it to be.”

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Wright said different papers using a variety of methods have produced results that differ by as much as 930 miles (1,500 km). That could be a problem if you are planning to skirt the edges of the next solar eclipse.

“For most people, yes, it doesn’t really matter; it won’t change everything,” Jubier said. “But the closer you get to the edge of the [eclipse] path, the more risk you take.”

Mass and volume

The total volume of the sun is 1.4 x 1027cubic meters. About 1.3 million Earths could fit inside the sun, according to NASA’s statistics (opens in new tab). The mass of the sun is 1.989 x 1030 kilograms, about 333,000 times the mass of the Earth. The sun contains 99.8 percent of the mass of the entire solar system, leading astronomers Imke de Pater and Jack J. Lissauer, authors of the textbook Planetary Sciences (opens in new tab), to refer to the solar system as “the sun plus some debris”. 

But the sun’s weight isn’t constant. Over time, the solar wind has carried particles, and thus mass, away from the star. According to astronomer Phil Plait (opens in new tab), the sun loses an average 1.5 million tons of material every second to the solar wind.

Meanwhile, in the heart of the star, mass is converted into energy. The powerhouse of the star converts more than 4 million tons of solar material into energy every second, Plait said.

Altogether, Plait estimated that the sun has lost a total of 1024tons of material over its 4.5-billion-year lifetime, or more than 100 times the mass of the Earth. While that sounds like a lot, it’s only about 0.05 percent of the star’s total mass. 

Yellow dwarf

Sun and Earth

The sun isn’t actually yellow, but appears so from Earth. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The sun is classified as a G-type main-sequence star, or G dwarf star, or more imprecisely, a yellow dwarf. Actually, the sun — like other G-type stars — is white, but appears yellow through Earth’s atmosphere.

Stars generally get bigger as they grow older. In about 5 billion years, scientists think the sun will start to use up all of the hydrogen at its center, according to NASA (opens in new tab). The sun will puff up into a red giant and expand past the orbit of the inner planets, including Earth. The sun’s helium will get hot enough to burn into carbon, and the carbon will combine with the helium to form oxygen. These elements will collect in the center of the sun. 

Later, the sun will shed its outer layers, forming a planetary nebula and leaving behind a dead core of mostly carbon and oxygen — a very dense and hot white dwarf star, about the size of the Earth.

While the sun is typical in most respects, it does have one quality that stands out from the majority of stars — it is a loner. Most stars have a companion, with some part of a triple or even a quadruple system.

But it may not have always been a solo star. Research suggests (opens in new tab) that all stars may have started out with a companion. The sun’s companion may have been a wide binary, putting it as much as 17 times farther from the sun than Neptune and making it easier to be stripped away.

“The idea that many stars form with a companion has been suggested before, but the question is: how many?” the study’s first author Sarah Sadavoy, a NASA Hubble fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, said. “Based on our simple model, we say that nearly all stars form with a companion.”

Additional resources

For more facts about the sun, read NASA’s overview: 10 Need-to-Know Things About the Sun (opens in new tab). Additionally you can check out their Sun Fact Sheet (opens in new tab) for more statistics.

Bibliography

De Pater, Imke, and Jack J. Lissauer. Planetary sciences. Cambridge University Press (2015). https://books.google.co.uk (opens in new tab)

Embedded binaries and their dense cores. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 469, Issue 4 (2017). https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/469/4/3881/3795556 (opens in new tab)

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Ailsa is a staff writer for How It Works magazine, where she writes science, technology, space, history and environment features. Based in the U.K., she graduated from the University of Stirling with a BA (Hons) journalism degree. Previously, Ailsa has written for Cardiff Times magazine, Psychology Now and numerous science bookazines. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About how large is the sun compared to other stars

If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic how large is the sun compared to other stars, then this section may help you solve it.

What ratio of size does the Sun have to the largest star?

UY Scuti, the largest known star in the universe, is a variable hypergiant with a radius about 1,700 times larger than that of the sun, or, to put it another way, a sphere the size of which could contain almost 5 billion suns.

In relation to the Sun, how big is it?

The Sun is 109 times larger than Earth, has a diameter of 864,400 miles (1,391,000 kilometers), weighs about 333,000 times as much as Earth, and has a volume of about 1,300,000 planet Earths.

When compared to other stars, why is the Sun so enormous?

The Sun is just an average sized star; for example, below is a list of some of the largest stars in our galaxy and how they compare to our Sun: Mu Cephi – about 1500 times the size of our sun.

The Sun’s size in relation to other planets

The Sun is 115 times the size of Venus; 21 million Mercury-sized planets could fit inside it; 1.5 million Venus-sized planets could fit inside it; and the Sun is 109 times the size of Earth.

What is the largest thing known to exist?

The Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, a supercluster of galaxies, is the largest single object that astronomers have discovered in the universe; light must travel across it for approximately 10 billion years.

The Milky Way contains how many suns?

Most of the Milky Way, which weighs 1.5 trillion suns, is unidentified dark matter, according to Vox.

In the sun, how many Earths could fit?

One million Earths could fit inside the sun, which has a diameter roughly 109 times that of the Earth and contains 99.8% of the solar system’s mass.

What number of suns exist?

There are roughly 200 billion stars in our galaxy, including our Sun.

How many Earths can the Sun hold?

The Sun is 109 times larger than Earth, has a diameter of 864,400 miles (1,391,000 kilometers), weighs about 333,000 times as much as Earth, and has a volume of about 1,300,000 planet Earths.

How many Earths are possible?

Their tool was the Kepler spacecraft, which was launched in March 2009 on a three-and-a-half-year mission to monitor 150,000 stars in a patch of sky in the Milky Way. There may be more than 300 million distant planets that could harbor life as we know it.

In how many suns can one Earth fit?

The Sun makes up 99.86% of the mass of the Solar System, so if you’re wondering how many Earths can fit inside it, the answer is that it would take 1.3 million Earths.

Is our Sun circling the galaxy?

Even though the Sun, Earth, and the entire solar system are orbiting the Milky Way’s nucleus at a blistering 140 miles per second, it takes our planetary neighborhood 200 million years to complete one orbit, demonstrating the enormous size of our home galaxy.

How long would it take for you to reach the sun?

If you flew there at 550 miles per hour, it would take you 7,045 days, or 19.3 years.

Why are we unable to feel the Earth rotating?

Our planet has been spinning for billions of years and will continue to spin for billions more because nothing in space is stopping us, but most of the time we don’t feel the Earth itself spinning because we are held close to the Earth’s surface by gravity and the constant speed of rotation.

How quickly does the Earth travel through space?

We learn in school that the earth travels around the sun in a very nearly circular orbit, traveling along this path at a speed of about 30 km/s, or 67,000 mph.

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