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# Sun Burns 600 Million Tons of Hydrogen Every Second?

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limitgov Posted: Mon, Nov 26 2012 6:41 PM

If the sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen every second, how much hydrogen is that in a year?

If the sun can last another estimated 4-6 billion more years, how much hydrogen is that (6 billion years worth)?

Where in the world is all that hydrogen?  Inside the sun?  Inside the fire?  Why doesn't it all burn away?

Do scientist really know these answers, or are they just really arrogant?

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shackleford replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 7:20 PM

limitgov:

If the sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen every second, how much hydrogen is that in a year?

If the sun can last another estimated 4-6 billion more years, how much hydrogen is that (6 billion years worth)?

Where in the world is all that hydrogen?  Inside the sun?  Inside the fire?  Why doesn't it all burn away?

Do scientist really know these answers, or are they just really arrogant?

It's not fire. That's a chemical reaction. The sun is powered by fusion which is a nuclear reaction. Yes, the sun contains enough hydrogen to sustain itself. Consider the volume of the sun and the mass of plasma contained therein.

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Autolykos replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 7:27 PM

The mass of the sun is about 2.192x10^27 tons. At the rate of 6.0x10^8 (600 million) tons per second, and assuming all of the sun's mass is hydrogen to start with, it would theoretically take about 1.16x10^11 (116 billion) years to convert it all into helium. More realistically, however, only a small fraction of the sun's total mass is under conditions that allow fusion to occur.

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John Ess replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 8:22 PM

What they aren't telling you is that it runs out on December 21st, 2012.  Just like in the Mayan Calendar.

Scientists don't want to tell you because they work for the man.

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dude6935 replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 8:48 PM

IIRC, only the gas near the core of the star reaches the proper temperatures and pressures to fuse. As a star ages, the gas at its core is converted from hydrogen into helium, then from helium into heavier elements like carbon, oxygen, silicon, (not sure of the specific order) until it either burns out or it develops an iron core and collapses. This collapse can either explode in a supernova or fall into a singularity, forming a black hole.

LOTS of info on stars on Wikipedia.

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Consumariat replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 8:57 PM

You go, limitgov. Expose those arrogant, so-called 'scientists', and their so-called laws of physics.

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Andris Birkmanis replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:24 AM

Somebody has to stop this! This is absolutely unsustainable! This hydrogen is not renewable! Think of the children! The Sun must be regulated!

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excel replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 4:23 AM

Tax the brightest 1%!

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Zlatko replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 5:21 AM

Peak Sun

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 8:31 AM

Don't worry, the sun's increasing energy output is expected to render Earth uninhabitable in only a billion years.

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limitgov replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:14 AM

"It's not fire. That's a chemical reaction. The sun is powered by fusion which is a nuclear reaction. Yes, the sun contains enough hydrogen to sustain itself. Consider the volume of the sun and the mass of plasma contained therein."

I see.  So, the sun is basically a huge ball of hydrogen?  A giant ball, with enough hydrogen to last billions of years?

Wouldn't the heat from the fusion, light the hydrogen on fire?

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Andrew Cain replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:16 AM

Don't you people watch Doctor Who? Jeez I am glad that I am a time traveler and have seen the implosion of the sun. It happens on a Friday btw. The sun  decided to take a early weekend.

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Andrew Cain replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:18 AM

"Wouldn't the heat from the fusion, light the hydrogen on fire?"

To my knowledge it essentially is a giant ball of fire, hence the heat. Then again, I'm not keen on the natural sciences. So perhaps I have given the wrong image.

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limitgov replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:40 AM

"to my knowledge it essentially is a giant ball of fire"

or is it a giant ball of hyrdogen?  something has to fuel the fire.

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:19 AM

limitgov:
Wouldn't the heat from the fusion, light the hydrogen on fire?

No, not at all. Fire is an oxidation reaction. Where's the oxygen in a huge ball of hydrogen?

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limitgov replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:28 AM

"No, not at all. Fire is an oxidation reaction. Where's the oxygen in a huge ball of hydrogen?"

Hmmm.  So, there can be zero fire without oxygen?

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:46 AM

If fire requires oxygen by definition, then it follows that fire is impossible without oxygen.

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Andris Birkmanis replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:58 AM

That's a big "if", as other oxidizers are possible.

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Jon Irenicus replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 1:20 PM

I think it's time the Sun paid its fair share.

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limitgov replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:03 PM

"That's a big "if", as other oxidizers are possible."

So, fire is possible without oxygen?

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Anenome replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:38 PM

limitgov:

"It's not fire. That's a chemical reaction. The sun is powered by fusion which is a nuclear reaction. Yes, the sun contains enough hydrogen to sustain itself. Consider the volume of the sun and the mass of plasma contained therein."

I see.  So, the sun is basically a huge ball of hydrogen?  A giant ball, with enough hydrogen to last billions of years?

The sun is a giant ball of mainly hydrogen, yes.

limitgov:
Wouldn't the heat from the fusion, light the hydrogen on fire?

Fire is a chemical reaction known as oxidation, meaning it is the combination of oxygen with something. Oxygen is very reactive, thus why fire is so common.

Fire puts out heat and light, so does the sun, which is why we liken the sun to fire. However, there's no fire in the sun in the sense of oxidation happening. There's very little oxygen.

The main reaction is two hydrogen nuclei ramming together because of gravity and heat and fusing into a helium nucleus. This fusion releases mass amounts of energy, which come to us as heat and light from the sun. Eventually enough helium can get in the core to begin producing lithium, carbon, oxygen, and ultimately iron, in a process known as stellar nucleosynthesis. (Although oxygen is produced, it would never be able to oxidate anything, a star is simply too hot to allow compounds to exist.)

When the star has created large amounts of iron, it starts to hit a wall. Iron is very hard to fuse into heavier elements, and when it does it's apparently an extremely violent reaction.

Eventually, enough iron builds up in the core that the star explodes in a supernova. The resulting explosion, if you can imagine an explosion taking literally years to progress, creates all the heavier elements known to exist.

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Andris Birkmanis replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 3:23 PM

So, fire is possible without oxygen?

Yes, fluorine is a good example of non-oxygen oxidizer.

But not inside a star, the conditions are too harsh for any chemistry, so to speak.

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Lady Saiga replied on Tue, Nov 27 2012 3:43 PM

Our star will not supernova.  It is not the right type of star for that.  It will become a red giant, then a nebula.  Its core will remain the longest, as a white dwarf.

The core of the Sun is by now more than half helium, by the way.  The heat it releases is energy, not fire, which transfers slowly up through the various layers and is finally released as photons.

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limitgov replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 10:24 AM

so, for some reason, the energy released by hydrogen fusing together is required for plants to live?  and helps us make vitamin d?

or will any light do those things?

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Andris Birkmanis replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:26 AM

Living things are adapted to specific range of wavelength of the light (which happens to overlap with the range of the Sun - strange, huh?). So yes, any light will do, provided it is in the correct range (e.g., pure red will be probably bad for both plants and sunbathing).

BTW, may I suggest Wikipedia? I heard they have more articles than these humble forums ;)

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limitgov replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 12:51 PM

"BTW, may I suggest Wikipedia?"

No....no you may not.

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Consumariat replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 2:07 PM

Living things are adapted to specific range of wavelength of the light (which happens to overlap with the range of the Sun - strange, huh?

Not that strange really. Just natural selection.

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Andris Birkmanis replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 2:18 PM

Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic for no reason :)

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Consumariat replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 3:08 PM

Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic for no reason :)

Haha. Sorry, I considered that maybe you were being sarcastic, but I wasn't sure. The interwebs are rubbish with communicating subtly. Someone needs to invent a sarcasm smilie.

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shackleford replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 9:42 PM

Consumariat:

Living things are adapted to specific range of wavelength of the light (which happens to overlap with the range of the Sun - strange, huh?

Not that strange really. Just natural selection.

Smells like circular reasoning to me!

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