The Solar System

Does the sun have an atmosphere?
Answered by Science Channel
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  1. The Sun does have an atmosphere, but it's very different from Earth's. The Sun's atmosphere is divided into three parts. The innermost part is known as its photosphere. This is the only part people can see with the naked eye, and it's the closest thing the Sun has to a surface (remember, it's big ball of gas). Temperatures at the photosphere range between 4,500 and 6,000 degrees Kelvin. The chromosphere sits above the photosphere and expands outward about 2,400 kilometers, and it gets hotter as it reaches farther away -- up to about 10,000 degrees Kelvin. The corona makes up the Sun's outermost layer. Not only is it extremely hot (literally, "millions of degrees Kelvin" hot), but it also extends for millions of miles from the chromosphere. Due to the photosphere's brightness, we can only see the chromosphere's light during a solar eclipse [source: NASA]. And no, you’d not reading this wrong; the sun's atmosphere actually gets hotter as it reaches outward toward the chromoshpere. Though the phenomena is not yet fully understood, NASA's prevailing theory states that it is most likely tied to the corona's magnetic field.

    The Sun is a dynamic hive of continuous activity, from its core to its atmosphere. This activity results in additional features, the causes of which scientists can't always explain. Dark, cool areas known as sunspots appear in pairs in the Sun's photosphere. Huge clouds of gases, called solar prominences, are oriented along the lines of the sunspot pairs. These prominences can cause major eruptions in the Sun's atmosphere, which can result in large amounts of material being spewed through the corona. These are called coronal mass ejections.

    Additional violent explosions, called solar flares, are thought to be caused by sudden changes in the Sun's magnetic field. Solar flares have been known to interfere with electrical and communication devices on Earth. This effect causes them to be mentioned in regular warnings from the scientific community; as a result, solar flares have even become material for end-of-the-world theories [source: Universe Today].

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