We pretty much take the sun for granted: it is a huge orb in the sky that gives us sunburn in the summer and warms us up during the cold winter months, but without it, life on earth simply would not exist. Discovering some interesting facts about the sun for kids is a great way for them to learn more about our planet and the wider solar system.
Some basic facts about the sun for kids include its chemical composition. 74% of the sun is made from hydrogen, 24% from helium, and the rest from trace elements of oxygen, iron and nickel, plus every other element that exists in our solar system. Essentially, the sun is a giant sphere of hydrogen gas and different parts of the sun rotate at different speeds. If you watch sun spots on the surface you can see how fast the surface is travelling at any given time.
There are lots more interesting facts about the sun for kids to learn: do you know that the sun accounts for 99.8% of the mass of our solar system? And since Jupiter accounts for the majority of the other 0.2%, this means the Earth is really very small by comparison. We might think our planet is important, but it is an insignificant part of the wider solar system.
Kids usually think the sun is huge, but whilst it is 109 times larger than Earth, it is not the biggest star out there: that prize goes to the massive VY Canis Majoris, 5,000 light years away from Earth.
One of the simple facts about the sun for kids to think about is how bright it is when compared to other stars in the solar system. We think our sun is very bright, but it is not as bright as other stars in the solar system. Of the fifty closest stars within 17 light years from Earth, the sun is only the fourth brightest.
The sun might look like a huge ball of fire in the sky, but it does have a structure to it. The external surface is called the photosphere and this reaches temperatures of 6,000 degrees Kelvin. The next layer is called the convective zone, so called because the heat moves from the centre through to the outer layer, where it cools and falls back again. The next layer is known as the radiative zone: heat can only travel through here by radiation. The middle of the sun is called the core and here temperatures reach 13.6 million degrees Kelvin and it is so hot that molecules of hydrogen are fused into helium.
Important facts about the sun for kids: the sun is slowly getting hotter and within a billion years it will be so hot that water will no longer exist on the surface of Planet Earth. The heat from the sun will be so intense that the surface of the Earth will be scorched and uninhabitable. About 7 billion years after that the sun will expand until it destroys the plant completely. What a cheerful thought!