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Last updated: 08 May 2006 1138 BST
Pic: Mark Lawrik-Thompson
Grap: Explore the Sun with our astronomy expert
Norfolk astronomer and Chairman of the Norwich Astronomical Society Mark Thompson writes about the Sun.
Picture: The Sun overlooking Stonehenge
The Sun overlooking Stonehenge

Did you know that the Sun is the nearest star to the Earth?

Find out more with our kids' guide to astronomy by local astronomer Mark Thompson.

Ask your parent or guardian, what's the nearest star to the Earth?

Bet they'll think long and hard and come up with some really complicated answer.

I reckon they will get it wrong! Why don't you ask them now?

If they said the Sun then you have clever parents. If they didn't then you will have to put them right.

The sun

The Sun, that thing in the sky that gives off loads of light and keeps us warm is actually just a normal star, like all the stars you see in the night sky.

The only thing different about it is that it is really close to us. If your parents drive cars properly then they will never go any faster than 70mph.

Just imagine that they drive at 100mph. If they did and if there was a road long enough, it would still take 146 years to get to the Sun!

What do we know about the Sun?

Well the first thing we know is that it is very dangerous!

Picture: Chidren wearing special glasses to protect their eyes from the sun
Children wearing special glasses to protect their eyes against the sun

Not only does some of the light that reach us cause sun burn, but if you look at the Sun there is a good chance it will damage your eyes.

Never look directly at the sun, with or without telescopes. It is very dangerous.

Even looking at the Sun with your eyes alone can and has caused damage to people's eyes.

That said, the Sun is a fascinating object.

It's just like all the stars in the sky, but is about average as far as size and brightness goes.

Heat and light

Like all stars, the Sun is just a big ball of gas giving off heat and light.

Deep inside the Sun, small balls called atoms are smashing into each other and producing the heat and light we feel here on Earth.

It takes this heat and light about 1 million years to get out from the Sun then only about eight minutes to reach us here on Earth.

The temperature on the surface of the Sun is about 15,000 degrees and it reaches millions of degrees in the middle.

On very rare occasions, the moon will pass in between the Earth and Sun and will block it from our view. We call this a solar eclipse.

Not quite so rare is the Lunar eclipse when the Earth passes in between the Sun and Moon.

We see this as the Moon passing into the Earth's shadow and turning dark.

Got a question about the Sun? Ask our astronomy expert, Mark »


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See also

On this site

Astronomy index

Ask the astronomer

International Space Station

Make a rocket

Make a sundial

New Planet

Planet Jupiter

Planet Mars

The Moon

Planets Pluto, Neptune and Uranus

Planet Saturn

Planet Venus

The Star of Bethlehem

The Sun

Your questions answered

Venus passes in front of the Sun


BBC Space

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On the rest of the web

Norwich Astronomical Society

Breckland Astronomical Society

North Norfolk Astronomical Society

NASA for kids

Inspire Science Centre

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