How Spherical is the Sun?

Nasa Footage of the Sun

From what we know about planets like the Earth and its properties, we may expect the Sun to also experience a bulge, causing its shape to deviate from a perfect sphere. It turns out that the Sun isn’t a perfect sphere, but it’s pretty close to one. If fact, with the help of instruments on Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, scientists have identified the Sun as the most perfect sphere in nature.

Let’s dive a little deeper into this matter. Because the Sun spins on its axis, we would expect centrifugal force to cause its equator to bulge slightly. It turns out that there is a bulge, but it is almost negligible compared to those that other planets experience. When “scaled to the size of a beach ball, say scientists, the sun’s equatorial bulge would be less than the width of a human hair” (The Guardian). Although the exact reasons as to why the Sun experiences a very small equatorial bulge have not been confirmed, there are a few possible explanations for this phenomenon.

One possible explanation is the Sun’s complicated magnetic field. The magnetic fields inside the Sun could be the force that holds the Sun together, keeping it from bulging out as much as other planets do. Another explanation is the fact that the Sun is a ball of gas, meaning that different parts of the Sun rotate at different speeds, which could also have an effect on the Sun’s shape (Discover Magazine). These explanations have not been confirmed yet to have a cause-and-effect relationship with the Sun’s shape, but it would be cool to see scientists run tests and simulations in the future to figure out what causes the Sun to be so spherical.

Sources used: The Guardian, Discover Magazine

4 thoughts on “How Spherical is the Sun?

  1. I also wrote about the Sun for my post and I was surprised by just how little we know about the Sun. More tests to see why the Sun is so spherical would be really interesting.

    Like

  2. I also wrote about the Sun for my post and I was surprised by just how little we know about the Sun. More tests to see why the Sun is so spherical would be really interesting.

    Like

  3. This was so interesting to read! I had never considered how our equatorial bulge might translate onto other objects in our Solar System. I especially found it intriguing that there was an official study citing the Sun as the most perfect sphere. Do you know how they determined that?

    Like

  4. That’s cool. Is the sun being considered the most perfect sphere in nature a complete coincidence or might this be due to its massive size? The gravitational forces due to the planets that orbit it would seem to at least have some effect on the spherical shape of the Sun.

    Like

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