Star of the Day
OUR earth is not very big when compared to that star of the day—our sun. Why, a million earths could be put into one sun. And yet our sun, as a star, is not really big. It is like a dwarf. Some stars are hundreds of times as large as our sun! The bright red star, Betelgeuse, has a diameter about 400 times as great as that of our star of the day.
Nor is the sun by any means the brightest star. The star S. Doradus is about 500,000 times as bright as the sun! But for our earth the sun is just right.
Our sun looks so much brighter and bigger than other stars simply because it is the nearest one to the earth. The sun’s average distance from the earth is nearly 93,000,000 miles (149,637,000 kilometers). Light reaches the earth from the sun in about 8-1/3 minutes. Since the sun is the center of the solar system, the earth and all its sister planets move in great circles around it.
Moving at a tremendous speed, the sun travels through space at about twelve miles a second. Yet there is no danger that our sun will travel too close to another star. The nearest star, called Proxima Centauri, is more than 25,000,000,000,000 miles (40,225,000,000,000 kilometers) away. So far away is it that it takes light, traveling at more than 186,000 miles a second, over four years to get from that star to our earth. If the earth were traveling in the direction of Proxima Centauri, it would take nearly 65,000 years to reach it.
When we consider, then, that our sun is but one among thousands of millions of suns, incandescent balls of fire whirling through space, it should move us to think of the One who has them all in his power and calls them all by name. (Ps. 147:4) Truly the sun is a gift from “the Father of the celestial lights,” who makes it shine upon all alike, the wicked and the good. (Jas. 1:17; Matt. 5:45) Certainly our star of the day can be said to praise its magnificent Creator.—Ps. 148:3.
A Giant Nuclear Reactor
Our sun is a big, bright ball composed of hot gases. The most common elements of which our sun is made are hydrogen, helium, calcium, sodium, magnesium and iron. But from where does the sun get its heat? Actually our star of the day is a kind of atomic furnace. The process is complicated indeed, but, basically, hydrogen gas in the sun is transformed into helium. Four atoms of hydrogen unite to make one atom of helium, and in the process much energy is released.
The surface temperature of the sun is said to be about 11,000° F. (6,000° C.). But because of its great distance from the earth only about one two-billionth (one two-thousand-millionth) of its radiant energy reaches the earth. Yet this amount is fully sufficient to provide ideal climatic conditions that make vegetable and animal life on earth possible.
If just a fraction of the sun’s fantastic amount of energy could be harnessed, man would solve his major problems with regard to heating and transport. If man knew how to use it effectively, it has been said that the sun could provide one and a half horsepower of energy for every square yard of the earth on which the sun shines.
Solar Prominences and Sun Storms
From time to time big flames shoot out from the sun; these are called solar prominences. These big geysers or fire fountains burst out and die down again, scattering fire in their path. They may shoot out over 200,000 miles from the sun itself.
Then there are those dark specks or blotches on the surface of the sun called sunspots. They are really sun storms of whirling masses of electrified gases. Apparently because they are lower in temperature than the rest of the solar atmosphere, sunspots look like dull patches in a coal fire.
Sunspots affect us in that they appear to be associated with the magnetic storms to which our earth is subjected from time to time. As a result there are radio fade-outs. For example, in March 1970, the Philippines reported a sun storm so intense that experts said it covered 60 to 70 percent of a region near the sun’s equator. It caused a radio blackout on the lower frequencies that lasted for more than an hour. Other electrical instruments on the earth are also affected by sun storms, and the compass needle may stop pointing northward and erratically spin around.
Plants Trap Sunlight
But in what way does this big star, whirling through space, and millions of miles away, affect us more personally? Well, it gives us the food we eat and the air we breathe. How so?
It is by the process known as photosynthesis. This word comes from “photos,” meaning “light,” and “synthesis” or “a putting together.” It occurs when green plants use the energy from sunlight to put together foodstuffs from carbon dioxide and water. This food produced is in the form of carbohydrates. At the same time the oxygen in the water is released as free oxygen gas. So, not only our food but also the oxygen in the air we breathe is made available by photosynthesis.
Another factor very necessary to life is warmth and, as we have seen, our sun is hot enough to keep us all warm. Its lifegiving powers are most evident in the spring when heat from the sun’s rays penetrates the frozen earth and wakes the tiny seedlings, bringing their little green noses pushing above ground. The amount of heat that comes to the landmass has an all-important effect on what can grow there. No important vegetation is possible, for example, in places such as the Arctic, where the average temperature of the warmest month stays below 42°F.
The sun provides not only food and air to keep us alive, but also freshwater. Heat from this solar furnace draws up water from the soil, lakes and rivers as water vapor. This vapor then condenses in the upper atmosphere and forms clouds. Eventually this moisture in the clouds falls back down as rain, feeding the rivers, watering the plants and giving us the freshwater we need. The words of the Godfearing man Elihu, recorded in the book of Job, describe it: “For he draws up the drops of water; they filter as rain for his mist, so that the clouds trickle, they drip upon mankind abundantly.” (Job 36:27, 28) In some places it rains more abundantly than in others, but the constancy of this cycle helps to preserve our lives.
Other Effects and Benefits
The sun also gives us our colors, for color is produced by the reflection from the object of the different colors of lights in the sun’s spectrum. And not to be underestimated either is its psychological effect. People who are cold or tired or lonely are made to feel better on a warm, sunny day, is that not so?
The sun serves as a great timekeeper for us, along with the moon and stars. (Gen. 1:14, 15) The solar day of twenty-four hours is determined by the rotation of the earth on its axis. The year is the time taken for the earth to go around the sun. And the varying height of the sun in the sky and the length of time it appears are ultimately the causes of the seasonal changes in climate and natural life.
Yes, our sun has an overwhelming effect on our lives. The Creator has provided this great source of energy to assure that we will have light and warmth as well as air to breathe. It calls forth showers and spring flowers. And by it we keep time and regulate our lives.
How vital our sun is to the earth! Without it the earth would shoot off into space. Without it, our moon would seem to disappear, no longer reflecting its light from the sun. The earth would be virtually dark. It would become very cold, and there would be no humans alive on earth to miss the resplendent sunsets.
But the Creator of the sun assures us that our star of the day will continue to shine on and on throughout eternity, never ceasing to bathe our earth with radiant heat and light.—Ps. 89:36; 104:5; Gen. 8:22.
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Without the sun there would be no food to eat, for plants use the sun’s radiant energy to manufacture food
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The sun not only provides warmth but also makes possible freshwater