Observatories Look at More than Stars

Planets? Yes, but not what we’re talking about here.
Galaxies? Of course.
Nope, today we’re looking at the sun. Which is in fact a star, so maybe I should rethink the headline.

McDonald Observatory in West Texas offers a twice-daily hour-long class on the sun. And it’s fascinating!

The Stats

  • The sun is a small star, even at 865,000 miles in diameter. This is 109 times as large as the Earth. 
  • It’s a steamy 10,000 degrees; although mild in comparison to other stars which burn at 80,000 degrees.
  • It’s gas and gas alone: 74% hydrogen, 24% helium; 2% other elements. These other elements are comprised of every element found on Earth.
  • It’s 4.5 billion years old–and half of its lifespan.
  • It takes 8.5 minutes for the sun’s light to reach Earth. Speedy when you think about light years.
  • The sun rotates, and faster at the core than at the poles. That explains some of the pretty pictures we’re about to see.
  • The sun has a cycle–not just rising and setting, but similar to the wax and wane of the moon. The sun is on an 11 year cycle of solar activity with flares, sunspots, and extravagant events.

The Sights








What’s your favorite feature in the sky?

Disclosure: all photos are courtesy of Bing.com


5 Responses

Whew, thanks for posting this. I was worrying about the sun becoming a super nova. Now that I know the sun is only halfway through it’s life expectancy, I can dedicate my anxiety to a more pressing problem — us and our planet.
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Just by reading this blog, I’m gettin’ a Ph.D. in Paula studies.
And to answer your question, sun is fun, but I’m mesmerized by the moon.

Jeannine. Diplomas will be distributed at the end of the trip.


I felt a “They Might Be Giants” song coming on…..

The McD Observatory is in the town Pat’s dad grew up in, and where Pat spent his summers growing up. Check out Indian Lodge, Balmorhea Natural Springs Swimming Pool (better in summer!), Cave of the Winds on Sleeping Lion Mountain, Old Forts and the Ft. Davis drugstore where you used to be fresh lime aids and cherry phosphates. 🙂

Debbie. Oh, TMBG…! How I loved them! I’ve been to the observatory and the actual Fort Davis. Opted to pass on Balmorhea bc it’s rather cold; and the rest I now need to add to my list!

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