There’s something so relaxing about sitting around a crackling campfire gazing off into the infinite star filled night sky with its quirky constellations, theoretical extra-terrestrials, and endless nothingness…. nothingness…. nothingness…. nothingness…. nothingness….
…Stop – that’s not exactly the full picture. There’s also a lot of gas!
Every single star up there is a luminous ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium, held together by its own gravity. Nuclear fusion reactions in its core support the star against gravity and produce photons and heat.
And there’s one single magnificent star that sustains life on earth. We watch it rise over our endless outback horizons and watch it set again with a glass of wine in hand, perched atop Big Red.
It’s the star that is closest to the earth, and is also known as the sun. That’s right, the source of heat and light for planet Earth is a big ball of burning gas. At a distance of 150 million km, the next closest star is 4.2 light years away… that’s more than 41 TRILLION km.
What will your kids discover?
If you thought the outback was hot, our sun burns at around 5500 degrees Celsius, and you can usually tell which stars are hotter (not including the stars in Who Weekly) by their colour – hotter stars emit bluer light and cooler stars emit redder light.
According to the current theory, stars are born as clumps within gigantic gas clouds (nebulae) that collapse in on themselves. The cloud’s material heats up as it falls inward under the force of its own gravity. When the gas reaches about 10 million degrees Celsius, hydrogen nuclei begin to fuse into helium nuclei, and the star is born. Energy from nuclear fusion radiates outward from the centre of the star, and gradually halts the gas cloud’s collapse.
And if your Mum always told you to never look directly at the sun, she was right! But at the Cosmos Centre in Charleville they positively insist that you do. In total safety, using a Lunt Solar Telescope, you can zero onto the surface of the Sun to see fascinating sun spots and solar flares.
Want to know more? Head to the Cosmos Centre in Charleville for an out of this world experience.