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Does the sun rotate?

Just as the Earth rotates, you may wonder–does the the sun rotate too? The sun does indeed rotate, but it does not rotate like the Earth or other solid objects like our planet.

Unlike our Earth, the sun is a large ball of plasma and gas. It is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium. Therefore, it is not solid or rigid rock like planets or moons. When we think of Earth, we know that all parts of the earth rotate around the axis simultaneously, or at the same time.  This means our north and south pole spin at the same time and at the exact same speed. Our equator spins also spins at the exact same rate time as our poles. The sun is different because it does not all rotate at the same time. Since it is composed of gas and plasma, the gasses and plasma rotate at different speeds depending on where they are located on the sun.

The gasses and plasma near the sun’s equator rotate around the sun’s axis every 25 days. As  you move towards the sun’s poles, the rotation speed slows. Near the north and south poles, the sun rotates once every 36 days. That means the sun’s poles take 11 more days to rotate around the sun’s axis than its equator. The differing speeds of rotation is called differential rotation, meaning different parts rotate at different speeds. In fact, scientists divide the sun into four general sections and each section spins at a different speed.

The innermost parts of the sun also spin differently than the outer layers. Scientists claim that the innermost layers of the sun do spin like a solid object. Moreover, the inner layer also spins faster than the outer, gaseous layers.

Scientists tend to measure the rotation of the sun by looking at its sunspots. Sunspots, or darker, colder spots on the sun, are created through the sun’s magnetic field. Scientists believe that the movement of the inner layers and radiation moving towards the outer layers contributes to its magnetic fields. Scientists use the sunspots to see movement because inner currents carry plasma from inner layers of the sun to the outer layers and contribute to the magnetic fields and the rotations.

The movement of the sun may seem a little chaotic, especially considering the fact that our entire planet rotates on its axis at a constant speed. However, you should remember that the sun is unlike the Earth. The sun is made up of gasses. It is not solid like our own planet. Gasses spin at different rates. Therefore, while the sun does indeed rotate on its axis, different parts of the sun rotate at different speeds. It does not rotate at a constant rate like solid Earth. The differential rotation of the sun helps contribute to sunspots, magnetic fields, and radiation.

 

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