Astronomers have discovered that the Sun is more metallic than we previously thought, potentially solving an astronomical mystery that scientists have grappled with for years.
The sun is the nearest star to earth and the source of all life on earth. Without them, plants would not be able to carry out photosynthesis and the oxygen content would drop. We would also encounter a lot more things.
Scientists know that the Sun is a giant ball of hot gas, made up of about 98 percent hydrogen and helium. The sun burns because it’s so hot and dense that the hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium, releasing energy in the process. However, the sun also consists of traces of other, heavier elements that have been detected.
The rest of the material that makes up the sun is carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, all of which are heavier than hydrogen or helium. There are also traces of even heavier elements like neon, iron, silicon, magnesium and sulfur, according to the Caltech Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) CoolCosmos website. For astronomers, all of those elements heavier than helium are metals.
To find out all this, scientists have a few observational methods at their disposal to find out what’s going on in the sun’s fiery depths.
One is called spectroscopy. As the name suggests, spectroscopy involves observing the spectrum of light emitted by the sun, represented by a rainbow pattern. Scientists in the early 19th century noticed that black lines kept appearing on patterns of light, and we now know that these black lines indicate the presence of certain chemical elements. We can tell which element is present in the sun as it causes a black line to appear at certain points in the rainbow pattern. That’s spectroscopy in a nutshell.
The other way scientists can determine what the sun is made of is to look at the solar vibrations — the way the sun expands and contracts in characteristic patterns. It’s a field called helioseismology, and just like seismologists can use earthquake data to determine what’s inside the Earth, these solar tremors can provide clues as to what’s inside the Sun.
The problem is that scientists have found conflicting results from different methods used since the early 2000s. It is called the solar frequency problem.
To solve it, researchers led by Ekaterina Magg and Maria Bergemann from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy set out to rethink what we know about the Sun’s composition, using those of the past Spectral estimates that are decades old and now are notoriously oversimplified.
The team applied several independent models and compared the results to the highest quality spectral data from the Institute for Astrophysics and Geophysics at the University of Göttingen, Germany.
Their new calculations showed the Sun contains 26 percent more metallic elements — they’re astronomers, so that means elements heavier than helium — than previously reported.
That sounds like a big change. However, it should be noted that this is a 26 percent increase from the already tiny figure. In short, the sun is still composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium.
Still, the team is confident that the new finding “brings us close to a solution to the so-called solar frequency problem,” according to the study.
“The new solar models based on our new chemical composition are more realistic than ever,” said Bergemann in a press release from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. “They produce a model of the Sun that agrees with all the information we have about the Sun’s structure today — sound waves, neutrinos, luminosity, and solar radius — without requiring any non-standard, exotic physics in the Sun’s interior.”
The study, Observation constraints on the origin of the elementswas published in the magazine Astronomy & Astrophysics on May 20 of this year.
#sun #lot #metal #thought #News