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Conceptual Questions


Suppose the rate at which deuterons react with protons to form 3He in the Sun's core were twice as fast as it actually is. What effect would such a difference make in the rate at which the Sun's hydrogen is converted into helium?

The time it would take for the Sun to consume all its hydrogen (if the Sun's luminosity remained constant) is about one hundred billion years. Why is this an unrealistic estimate of the lifetime of the Sun?

Why does it take so long for the energy produced in the Sun's core to reach the surface?

Why does convection develop about 70% of the way from the Sun's center to its surface?

Suppose the Sun's nuclear reactions were to drop by 50% next Sunday and resume their normal rate again the following Saturday. How noticeable would this temporary drop in energy production be when the energy produced next week finally reaches the Sun's surface?

Explain why the solar neutrino telescope in South Dakota is located 1 mile beneath the Earth's surface and why it can operate around the clock.

Why are astronomers more concerned about the low rate of detection of solar neutrinos by the SAGE experiment than the low rate of detection by the Homestake experiment?

Why is nearly all of the Sun's energy produced in the inner 1.5% of its volume?

Suppose the density of gas in the Sun's photosphere fell much less rapidly with increasing distance from the center than it really does. What effect would this have on the sharpness of the Sun's limb?

What do we mean when we say that the Sun has a temperature of 5800 K?

Suppose the Sun's limb were brighter than the center of the Sun's disk. What would that tell us about the temperature structure of the Sun's photosphere?

Describe the pattern of rising and falling gas in granules and supergranules.

Why do sunspots appear dark?

What is thought to be the reason that sunspots are cool and dark?

Describe a spicule.

Why was it difficult for astronomers to identify the elements responsible for the emission lines radiated by the corona?

The rate at which energy must be supplied to the corona to keep it hot is quite small. How can this be so?

What is the relationship between active regions and coronal holes?

What is the relationship between coronal holes and the solar wind?

How do prominences and flares compare in location and lifetime?

Why does the magnetic field of the solar wind follow a spiral pattern?

Why is the heliopause thought to be nearer the Sun in some directions than in others?

What evidence do we have that there is a relationship between sunspots and the temperature of the Earth?

What does a butterfly diagram tell us about the numbers and locations of sunspots during a sunspot cycle?

Describe the magnetic polarity and average location of sunspots during a full sunspot cycle of 22 years.

What does the differential rotation of the Sun have to do with the solar sunspot cycle?

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