What Is the Chemical Make-up of the Sun?


Quick Answer

Hydrogen and helium combine to form more than 98 percent of the sun’s mass, and they represent over 99 percent of the atoms in the sun. Oxygen is the third most abundant element found in the sun, as it is responsible for almost 1 percent of the sun’s mass. The other constituent elements include carbon, nitrogen, silicone, magnesium, neon, iron and sulfur.

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Full Answer

The amount of hydrogen and helium in the sun makes sense, as the primary energy source of the sun is a thermonuclear reaction, in which hydrogen atoms are fused together to form helium atoms. By studying the ratio of hydrogen present in the sun to the amount of helium present, scientists can understand the history of the star. The sun is approximately 4.5 billion years old, and it has enough hydrogen to keep burning for about five billion more years.

Scientists investigate the composition of the sun and other stars by studying its spectral emissions. Because elements produce light at different frequencies, it is possible to use sophisticated analytical techniques to determine what light frequencies make up a star’s light and therefore determine what chemicals are present in the star. In this way, scientists can determine what elements are present in more distant stars as well.

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