Fire Drill!

Quick! Someone call every single fire department in the entire world! The sun is on fire! It’s going to take more water than we have on Earth to put this bad boy out.. but wait.. would it even go out if we poured every single drop of water on/in/around Earth? Short answer.. no.. you’d also cause substantial damage to so many other things..

See, our lovely ball of nuclear fire is also a measuring spoon for other stars outside of the Solar System; we call them Solar Masses. When you hear a scientist refer to a star as “6 Solar Masses”, that means it’s 6 of our Sun’s balled up into one.. so.. really f’ing big. There are stars out there that are 200+ Solar Masses.. the Universe is a scary place people – and we know so little about it. This is why NASA and all our international space agencies need funding people!

OK, rant over. If we had a hypothetical giant bucket of water out in space, filled to the brim, and poured it out over top of our Sun, what do you think would happen? Do you think it would fizzle and stop like dropping a lit match and throwing it into a puddle on the ground? Not quite.. not at all infact. Do you think that water would cause a supermassive explosion of steam and obliterate all of the solar system? You’re getting closer. Do you think the Sun would absorb the water, and increase its internal temperature and cause atmospheres of various planets to wither and fade away? You’re getting hotter.. (see what I did there?).

See, our Sun is made up of bits of the periodic table of elements. It consists mostly of Oxygen believe it or not, by a pretty huge amount – roughly 89-90% – and for mathematics sake, we’re going for the higher number here. Our sun is also unlike most other stars, in that its density is greater than water, so by pouring water on top of something with a greater density than water, the water floats above it. Think of throwing a stone into a river. The stone sinks because its density is higher than the waters density. Now throw an inflated beach ball – it floats because its density is lower than the water. Fun fact: Saturn, if it could be shrunk down to a proper size without changing anything else about it, would float in your bathtub 🙂

So, since the density of the sun is greater than water, the water itself would float on top, but due to wild gravity levels, temperature changes, and a few other things I’m not mentioning here for simplicities sake, it would eventually be absorbed into the Sun and evenly distributed across, changing the very composition of the sun to something substantially different than it is now. Not only would the Oxygen count now be moved out of the gold metal position and be replaced by Hydrogen (48%), Oxygen (37%) would still be high up on that list in silver place. Helium (14%) taking third, and all the other little bits taking up only 1% of the remaining elements of the sun. This would do a few things to the Sun visibly:

  • It would change the colour from it’s current colour of 5800 K MSP38261af89307h2c5he8b00005g94f1hb4h367b12 to a much hotter 7200 K MSP974209cb7599113bb660000408chg1424ge6188
  • It would increase the mass by roughly 30% (Roughly 1.7 Solar Masses)
  • It would burn through its fuel in roughly 60% of the time (60% less life time)

Due to all of the above changes, Earth is no more than a barren rock like Mercury is today, as the heat increase alone has vapourized our Atmosphere and our oceans have dried up.. but we already did that with the giant bucket of water, so we killed ourselves before we even began here. The water itself, as it poured, would exponentially increase in temperature, until it matched that of the core of the Sun itself, almost 33 Million Kelvin (330,000,000 degrees Celsius). This would take roughly 30 minutes from first drop leaving the bucket, to the entire amount evenly distributing itself in/on the Sun (mostly in). We’re pouring this bucket of water at a distance equal to 1 Astronomical Unit, or AU, which is equal to the distance from the Sun to Earth, or just under 150 million KM, only we’re pouring it opposite to Earth (because we’re cool like that).

So.. short story? Don’t try to put out the sun with a giant bucket of water.. bad things will happen..

Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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