MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: If all water on earth was poured on the sun, would the sun go out?

Date: Mon Feb 19 14:56:21 2001
Posted By: Steve Williams, Staff, Science Demonstrator, Pacific Science Center
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 981504465.As

Hi Andrew!!

You have asked a really cool question, and in order to answer it we are 
going to have to talk about size and scale (how big things are) and we are 
going to have to talk about some chemistry too!

Ok, first let's talk about size. The Earth is a really big ball of rock, but 
the sun is even bigger. It's lots bigger! You could fit hundreds and 
hundreds of planet Earths inside the sun, and still have room to spare! Now, 
I know the sun looks pretty small from the Earth (you should never look 
directly at the sun) but it's small because it is far away. If you hold a 
penny close to your face and then at arm's length you'll see what I mean.

The sun is like that penny. Up close it is truly huge (1,392,000 km (864,950 
miles) in diameter), but at a distance it is tiny. If you were standing on 
the sun (somehow) and looking back at the Earth, you wouldn't be able to see 
it as more than just a bright star!

So what does this have to do with your question? Well, if you were able to 
magically transport all the water from the Earth to the surface of the sun, 
you would cover only a tiny, tiny portion of the sun. In fact, the amount of 
water wouldn't even cover a sunspot on the sun!
Wait a minute, what's a sunspot, you ask? Well, if you check out this site:

You can see sunspots in action. Many of those sunspots are so big the Earth 
would fit inside them! 

It gets better. Water on the sun wouldn't put it out anyway! The sun's fire 
is a different kind of fire than the kind we get on Earth. Fire on Earth is 
made from mixing oxygen with fuels. Fire on the sun is made from smashing 
atoms together and getting new atoms. One of the atoms that gets smashed in 
the sun is hydrogen...hydrogen is also one of the atoms in water! So what 
you would be doing if you transported all of the Earth's water to the sun is 
you would be adding fuel to the sun's fire!
Of course, the amount of fuel you are adding is like throwing a tiny twig on 
a giant bonfire. 

Take Care and Be Safe,

Steve Williams
Rock Star and Science Demonstrator
Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Washington, USA

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