Figuring for Yourself
The edge of the Sun doesn’t have to be absolutely sharp in order to look that way to us. It just has to go from being transparent to being completely opaque in a distance that is smaller than your eye can resolve. Remember from Astronomical Instruments that the ability to resolve detail depends on the size of the telescope’s aperture. The pupil of your eye is very small relative to the size of a telescope and therefore is very limited in the amount of detail you can see. In fact, your eye cannot see details that are smaller than 1/30 of the diameter of the Sun (about 1 arcminute). Nearly all the light from the Sun emerges from a layer that is only about 400 km thick. What fraction is this of the diameter of the Sun? How does this compare with the ability of the human eye to resolve detail? Suppose we could see light emerging directly from a layer that was 300,000 km thick. Would the Sun appear to have a sharp edge?
Show that the statement that 92% of the Sun’s atoms are hydrogen is consistent with the statement that 73% of the Sun’s mass is made up of hydrogen, as found in Table 15.2. (Hint: Make the simplifying assumption, which is nearly correct, that the Sun is made up entirely of hydrogen and helium.)
From Doppler shifts of the spectral lines in the light coming from the east and west edges of the Sun, astronomers find that the radial velocities of the two edges differ by about 4 km/s, meaning that the Sun’s rotation rate is 2 km/s. Find the approximate period of rotation of the Sun in days. The circumference of a sphere is given by 2πR, where R is the radius of the sphere.
Assuming an average sunspot cycle of 11 years, how many revolutions does the equator of the Sun make during that one cycle? Do higher latitudes make more or fewer revolutions compared to the equator?
This chapter gives the average sunspot cycle as 11 years. Verify this using Figure 15.26.
The escape velocity from any astronomical object can be calculated as . Using the data in Appendix E, calculate the escape velocity from the photosphere of the Sun. Since coronal mass ejections escape from the corona, would the escape velocity from there be more or less than from the photosphere?
Suppose you observe a major solar flare while astronauts are orbiting Earth. Use the data in the text to calculate how long it will before the charged particles ejected from the Sun during the flare reach them.
Suppose an eruptive prominence rises at a speed of 150 km/s. If it does not change speed, how far from the photosphere will it extend after 3 hours? How does this distance compare with the diameter of Earth?
From the information in Figure 15.21, estimate the speed with which the particles in the CME in parts (c) and (d) are moving away from the Sun.