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The Sun, Transits and Eclipses: Shadows of the Sun


SDO Sun
The sun. Image credit:SDO/NASA

We have an intimate relationship with our sun. Its light, gravity and storms profoundly affect our planet's motions, weather, oceans, and life, as well as all other objects in our solar system. Ancient cultures observed and worshipped it. Galileo observed sunspots as evidence of imperfections. Modern scientists use solar missions to study it as an example of the closest star, and examine how its radiation, energetic particles, and powerful magnetic field affects our planet. Others try to model the complex layers and processes within the sun, and analyze particles from the sun to learn more about the formation of the solar system. (For more information about the sun's influence on our magnetic field, check out the YSS topic: Magnetospheres)

Beginning in the 17th century, scientists used the
transit of Venus across the sun's face to make
increasingly accurate measurements of the
sun's distance from the Earth.

A transit of Venus was observed by Jeremiah
Horrocks in 1639.
Jeremiah Horrocks in 1639

And like those ancient cultures, people around the world still observe the sun, particularly during special events where an object blocks part of our view of the sun -- during eclipses by the Moon, and transits of the planets Mercury and Venus.

Check out the resources in our Classroom and Organization sections in this topic as you investigate our sun, eclipses and transits! It's an illuminating subject!

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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014