JOSE ANTONIO PENAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JOSE ANTONIO PENAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Solar structure and life-cycle. Computer artwork showing the structure of the Sun (left) and its life-cycle (across top). At the Sun's core (blue) nuclear reactions release heat and light energy as photons. These radiate outwards through the inner region (radiative zone) to the outer convection zone layer. Here, solar plasma rises in thermal columns to the visible surface (photosphere). Magnetic fields on the surface cause Sun spots (black) and solar flares (bottom right). Our Sun was created approximately 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of giant molecular cloud (GMC, top left). As the GMC collapsed it released heat and eventually the Sun became hot enough to begin nuclear fusion of hydrogen. When all the hydrogen is used nuclear reactions involving helium will begin. At this point the Sun will enlarge and become a red giant. When all the fuel is used the Sun will collapse and become a white dwarf (top right).
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