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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.
Schematic view of the inner structure of the Sun
Click on image for full size and a more detailed image of the interior of the Sun
NASA

The Solar Interior

To understand how our Sun works, it helps to imagine that the inside of the Sun is made up of different layers, one inside the other. The core, or the center of the Sun, is the region where the energy of the Sun is produced. Even on Earth we know that the Sun produces energy because we see sunlight and we feel hot on a summer day.

The Sun's energy, which is produced in the core, travels outwards. The energy travels first through the radiative zone, where particles of light (photons) carry the energy. It actually takes millions of years for a photon to move to the next layer, the convection zone.

At the convection zone, energy is transferred more rapidly. This time it is the motion of the gases in the Sun that transfers the energy outwards. The gas at this layer mixes and bubbles, like the motion in a pot of boiling water.This bubbling effect is seen on the surface of the Sun, and is called granulation.

We can't see inside the Sun. So scientists use other diagnostics. These diagnostics help us know what is inside the Sun.


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The Convection Zone

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The Sun's Radiative Zone

The Sun's radiative zone is the section of the solar interior between the innermost core and the outer convective zone. In the radiative zone, energy generated by nuclear fusion in the core moves outward...more

Thermal Physics

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What are the "parts" of the Sun? The photosphere is the visible "surface" of the Sun. The three regions of the solar interior are the core, the radiative zone, and the uppermost convective...more

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA