Q:

How does the sun produce heat?

A:

The sun produces heat derived from energy through a variety of means, such as fusion, radiation and convection. Heat is the transfer of energy from one body to another, so the heat from the sun is the result of the energy produced in its core being transferred outward into space.

The sun produces a massive amount of energy due to the nuclear fusion reaction in its core, in which the element hydrogen is converted into helium. The temperature in the core is about 13,600,000 degrees Kelvin, and this heat is transferred into the next layer through thermal radiation. After that, the heat is carried to the surface of the sun through convection. From the surface, where the temperature is around 5,700 K, the energy from the sun travels throughout space in the form of light radiation. A portion of this light reaches Earth, and some of the energy is trapped by the atmosphere, heating Earth.

Substances on Earth are heated at the molecular level, as the light from the sun excites the atoms that make up the substance. The infrared portion of the sun's light resonates with some of the atoms in the substance, and these vibrating atoms collide with other atoms in the substance, dispersing the energy and producing heat.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why is the sun an inexhaustible source of energy?

    A:

    Technically speaking, the sun is, in fact, not a source of inexhaustible energy, since every star eventually burns out. However, the sun's internal fuel supply will keep it burning for at least six billion years, enough to be considered inexhaustible for all practical purposes. The sun's nuclear furnace provides as much as 174 petawatts of solar energy to the planet, approximately 70 percent of which is absorbed by the surface.

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  • Q:

    What is the fusion reaction that occurs in the Sun?

    A:

    The sun burns due to a nuclear fusion reaction that leads to the release of heat and light energy. It may seem paradoxical to some students that the sun can burn in space, an environment without oxygen, but it is burning thanks to a fusion reaction rather than combustion, so oxygen is not required for the sun to produce heat and light as if it were fire. Technically, the sun is not on fire as such but is a burning ball of nuclear fusion reactions.

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  • Q:

    Why does the sun heat the Earth unevenly?

    A:

    The sun heats the Earth unevenly, primarily because the Earth is covered by water and land that heat and cool at different rates. Moreover, the equator heats more intensely than the poles. The Earth is also tilted on its axis, creating seasonal differences at specific latitudes.

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  • Q:

    How does the sun heat the Earth?

    A:

    The sun heats the Earth by shining light on it and radiating heat toward it. The atmosphere absorbs the heat, keeping it close to the Earth's surface where it can sustain life. Without heat and energy from the sun, life on Earth would not exist. Light energy not only warms the planet, it supplies the calories that are consumed by every living thing on the planet.

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