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Japan Space

Volunteers Use Annular Eclipse To Measure Sun More Accurately 75

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-it's-just-been-eating-differently dept.
Anonymous Squonk writes "The measurement of the sun currently in use was actually calculated over 120 years ago, and is off by hundreds of kilometers. Thousands of ordinary Japanese citizens worked together to improve this estimate. By measuring the borders of the 'ring of fire' effect of the recent eclipse, and using the known size and distance from the Earth of the sun, the radius of the Sun was measured as 696,010 kilometers, with a margin of error of only 20 kilometers."
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Volunteers Use Annular Eclipse To Measure Sun More Accurately

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @03:56AM (#40107233)

    NASA seemed to know it's 696,000km long before this experiment [nasa.gov].

  • Re:Incidentally... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @04:32AM (#40107359)

    The Sun is growing right now and it is getting brighter by the day. This is not occurring at a rapid rate at the present time. It is due to the slow accumulation of helium in the core of the Sun. Helium doesn't undergo fusion at this time (not hot enough). The increase in helium would imply a decrease in the fusion rate, but due to maintaining a hydrostatic equilibrium, the temperature of the core increases and the fusion rate actually increases. This causes the radius to increase.

  • Re:Incidentally... (Score:5, Informative)

    by thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) on Friday May 25, 2012 @05:38AM (#40107499) Journal
    To be more precise, the sun will become a red giant in about 5 billions, engulf the earth, and eventually fade as a white dwarf, whose volume is about the same as the earth.
  • Re:Define 'Sun' (Score:3, Informative)

    by mister_playboy (1474163) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:35AM (#40107651)

    Not to mention that it's probably not a perfect sphere, so a single radius doesn't capture its size.

    Wikipedia sayth:

    It is a near-perfect sphere, with an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only 10 km. As the Sun consists of a plasma and is not solid, it rotates faster at its equator than at its poles. This behavior is known as differential rotation, and is caused by convection in the Sun and the movement of mass, due to steep temperature gradients from the core outwards. This mass carries a portion of the Sun’s counter-clockwise angular momentum, as viewed from the ecliptic north pole, thus redistributing the angular velocity. The period of this actual rotation is approximately 25.6 days at the equator and 33.5 days at the poles. However, due to our constantly changing vantage point from the Earth as it orbits the Sun, the apparent rotation of the star at its equator is about 28 days. The centrifugal effect of this slow rotation is 18 million times weaker than the surface gravity at the Sun's equator. The tidal effect of the planets is even weaker, and does not significantly affect the shape of the Sun.

    So more round than you might think. :)

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