The Sun is our beacon of light, our source of energy, quite frankly, our everything. Life on Earth would not occur (at least as it currently does) without this massive ball of plasma that rests 93 million miles away. Throughout history, our Sun has often been an object of worship; something looked at as being so magnificent that it must be god-like. For further context, this ball of energy accounts for over 99% of the mass within our solar system; in fact, the Sun is so giant that 1 million earths could fit inside of it.

From adolescence, we grow up to believe that the Sun is the greatest, most incredible piece of nature possible. For most, our Sun seems to be the unsurmountable standard of nature’s excellence — however, in reality, the Sun is actually just a meager fraction of what our universe has to offer. An easy way to realize is this is to do the following; tonight, around the time you’re preparing for bed, take a few minutes and step outside. Once you’ve stepped out, direct your eyes to the night sky and gander at the small spheres of light scattered across the visible cosmos. These balls of light are what we call ‘stars,’ however its quite humbling to realize that these stars are not much different than our ‘magnificent’ Sun. In fact, our Sun is nothing more than a star itself, and in relative comparison, our Sun is a rather average one at best. Surely, our Sun isn’t tiny, in fact in our cosmic neighborhood the Sun is undoubtedly the biggest show in town. However, when brought onto a scale with all the other billions of stars in the universe (in terms of sheer size, brightness, energy) our Sun measures out right in the middle of the pack.

One of the more interesting facts about stars is that they sometimes lead to the creation of a black hole when they die out. This occurs when stars are so massive that eventually, after millions of years, they collapse in on themselves as a result of a lost battle between its nuclear power and gravity. This collapse leads to a region of immeasurable density; such density that is able to puncture space time and hold anything as captive, even light. With that said, in reality, our Sun is not even massive enough to have the privilege to one day become a black hole. For a star to have such an opportunity, it would need to have at least 15–20 times more mass than our Sun. Instead, our Sun will go out in a much different way, transitioning to a red giant and subsequently shrinking down into a small, dense ball of white light, a white dwarf no bigger than our Earth. This humbling reality shows that we humans are nothing special, nor is the solar body which birthed us. As the late Carl Sagan once eloquently put it, “we are on a small stage in a vast cosmic arena.” While our dear Sun may not actually be god-like, stars as a whole are quite incredible products of nature. These massive collections of hot gas are not only beautiful in terms of the visible light they provide, but as far as we know, they are one of the key ingredients for life to develop. With that, it’s critical to realize that all of those other stars that you see floating around in the dark night sky are not just pale dots, but they are also possibly home to some other form of life.

Here on Earth, our Sun is everything; however, this perceivably divine product of nature is surprisingly minuscule when placed alone in the depths of the cosmic ocean. This humbling reality is all but a necessary one to arrive at, as it highlights the fact that we humans must preserve this small, Sun-powered speck in which we reside — it’s all we got.

-AV

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