NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center released this pretty neat animation back in 2012, which shows how light streaming up from inside the sun through its many layers. Did you know that the light that shines on our Earth takes some 40,000 years to travel through the sun’s layers? I did not, and now I am amazed.
As the scientists explain:
Particles of light form from atoms undergoing nuclear fusion in the sun’s innermost layer known as the core. The light then flows through the sun’s interior for millennia, slowly bubbling up like water in a boiling pot. It eventually bursts past the sun’s surface, called the photosphere, and rises into the solar atmosphere. Once in the atmosphere — made up of the chromosphere and corona — the light streams out through the solar system. Watch the video to see light travel from the sun’s interior to the surface.
This movie takes us on a space weather journey from the center of the sun to solar eruptions in the sun’s atmosphere all the way to the effects of that activity near Earth. The view starts in the core of the sun where atoms fuse together to create light and energy. Next we travel toward the sun’s surface, watching loops of magnetic fields rise up to break through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. In the corona is where we witness giant bursts of radiation and energy known as solar flares, as well as gigantic eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections or CMEs.
The sun is composed of the five different layers seen in this image.
A region of subsurface flow separates the core from the sun’s outer shell, the photosphere.
The chromosphere and corona make up the sun’s lower and upper atmosphere, respectively.
Picture: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center