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The Sun: A Star of Light and Life

Updated: May 18

Join us as we DISCOVER how astronomers came to understand the Sun’s place in our solar system, learn how important the Sun is to our survival on Earth and CREATE your very own bean plant using the Sun's power!

The Sun and our planet Earth. Image source: Vadim Sadovski / Shutterstock.
 

DISCOVER

Fast Facts

  • The Sun is found at the centre of our Solar System

  • It is over 4.5 billion years old!

  • It is the closest star to Earth

  • Have you ever heard the phrase 'at the speed of light'? On average, light from the Sun takes about 8 minutes and 17 seconds to reach Earth

  • The Sun was considered a god in many ancient cultures, including in Greece, Egypt and even Japan!


Apollo in his horse-drawn chariot, with a halo of light around him. Image source: Donn Phillip Crane.

The Sun in Myth


Did you know that in ancient Greek mythology, Helios is the Greek god of the Sun? He rides a fiery chariot every day from the east to the west, flying across the sky! Together with his two sisters, the moon goddess Selene and the dawn goddess Eos, they turn the days into nights, and nights into days.


Today we know that the Sun rises in the eastern sky and sets in the western sky. Ancient Greeks believed that each night, Helios rode back from the west to the east in a golden cup, so he could start flying again the next morning. The early Greeks worshipped Helios for bringing them the Sun, because without him, there would be no sunlight!


Helios is also associated with the Greek god Apollo, who we learnt about in our Argo News issue on Mercury. They are often mistaken for each other, and Apollo would even come to replace Helios in later myths.


A fresco depicting the dawn goddess Eos leading Apollo in his horse-drawn chariot, bringing light to the world. Image source: Guido Reni, painted 1613–14 in the Casino Rospigliosi, Rome.


Discovering the Sun


The Great Ball of Fire

By 600 BCE, many Greek astronomers began to realise that the Sun was not a god, but a round ball of fire hanging in space.


Thales of Miletus was the first recorded person to predict an eclipse of the Sun, which even ended a long war! This appearance of the solar eclipse in 585 BCE was seen as an omen by the warring Medes and Lydians. This made both sides stop fighting and agree to peace.


Centre of the Cosmos?

The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was fixed at the centre of the universe, and not the Sun as we know today! In 150 CE, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy observed that the Earth was round and surrounded by moving objects in the sky. Many Greek astronomers incorrectly believed that the Sun was one of the objects that orbited around the Earth.



Heliocentric model of the Solar System. Image source: ZolotovaArt / VectorStock

Our Sun: Heart of the Universe

In 250 BCE, the ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, with the Earth circling around it. This was the first known model of heliocentrism, the idea that the Sun was the centre.


He even placed the other planets in their correct order of distance around the Sun! However, people rejected his ideas because they believed in the geocentric view – the theory that the Earth was the centre of the universe.


The heliocentric theory would only be revived thousands of years later. In the 16th century, modern astronomers like Copernicus began to find evidence that the Earth is not fixed at the centre, but that it actually moves around the Sun!

 

CREATE

A budding bean sprout. Image source: scienceexplorers.com

Growing Beans with the Sun


Without the Sun, our Earth would be a dark and lifeless world – a frozen ball floating in space. Can you imagine that? The gravitational pull of the Sun keeps our planet in orbit, and radiates an enormous amount of light and heat that we need to survive. This makes it possible for life to exist on our planet Earth!


This week, we will be sprouting our own beans to witness how the Sun helps plants grow. The Sun is the main source of energy for almost every living thing on Earth, including you and me!


Watch the video to find out how to make use of the Sun’s light and energy, and bring your beans to life. You can also find the materials and instructions you will need, written in the below worksheet.



We'd love to see your beans coming to life! If you try this activity, why not take a photo and share it with us at crew@argonautsclub.org?

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