Nuclear Fusion In The Sun
The energies that we receive from the sun that is light energy and heat energy are the result of the nuclear fusion that takes place in the sun. The process which is known as proton-proton fusion takes place inside the sun.
We know that the sun has a lone pair of the hydrogen atom which turns into helium by undergoing a series of processes where the protons fuse together. This is also the reason why the sun is hot. The process occurs at the core of the sun. The energy released inside the sun keeps it hot.
What Is Proton-proton Fusion?
Proton-proton fusion is defined as one of the two known reaction sets of nuclear fusion where the stars convert hydrogen into helium. This fusion takes place when the kinetic energy of the protons is overpowering the electrostatic repulsion between the two protons. The process of conversion of hydrogen to helium is a slow process and it takes ten billion years. The proton-proton fusion is known as the chain reaction but the steps that are involved in the reaction do not produce an end product. Instead, the process involves decaying of one material so that the next material can start the reaction.
Steps Involved In Proton-proton Fusion
- Two ionized protons fuse together but sometimes one of the pair breaks into a neutron. The proton-neutron pair so obtained is known as the deuterium. Deuterium is a type of hydrogen. During the process, a neutrino and a positron are also emitted. When a positron comes in contact with the electron, the pair annihilates radiating gamma rays.
- The other proton collides with deuterium resulting in the formation of helium-3 nucleus and gamma rays. This nucleus consists of two protons and one neutron. The gamma rays so produce escape from the core of the sun to outer space in the form of sunlight.
- Now the two helium-3 nuclei collide and the chain continues.
- When two helium-3 nuclei collide, a helium-4 nucleus is formed with plus two neutrons.
- The mass of the helium-4 atom is less when compared to the four protons and this combination is responsible for the release of heat and light from the sun.
Interesting Facts About The Sun
- About 620 million metric tons of hydrogen are fused in the core of the sun every second.
- Sol is an alternate name of the sun which originates from the ancient Roman’s god of the sun.
- The sun can generate solar winds and this is noticed as Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. When the solar winds interact with the earth’s atmosphere, these aurorae are created. The solar winds consist of hot charged particles that are emitted from the corona of the sun.
- The sun follows differential rotation, that is the sun rotates more quickly at the equator than at the poles. Also, the direction of rotation of the sun is from west to east.
- When all the hydrogen is converted into helium, the sun reaches a point where the sun will be known as the red giant star. When this happens, it is believed that the size of the sun increases so much that it would engulf Mercury, Venus, and earth.
- The sun is halfway through its life. Once the sun turns 4.5 billion years old, it will eventually convert all the hydrogen to helium, turning into a red giant star. The next stage after this phase is when it collapses into the size of the earth. This phase is known as a white dwarf. The current phase of the sun is known as the yellow dwarf.
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