Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is Captain Hottmore. Your co-pilot and navigator for this flight will be Major Handholder. We are delighted to welcome you aboard the Starship Titanic, the ship that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Titanic Spaceways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, we would already be out of business. Our first priority is, of course to make money. Keeping that in mind, I should tell you that we don't pay flight attendants very well and we hope you feel obliged to tip heavily for good service.

On a related note, since we have scrimped on several safety features, the flight attendants are now pointing out the routes to the escape pods. Knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the craft. Come to think of it, I've looked at those pods. In the event of an emergency, I'd rather escape into a bottle than in one of them.

Whether you're journeying with us to Alpha Centaury for business or pleasure, please let us know how we can make your journey more comfortable. We aim to please. Well, actually, we aim to profit. But, you get the idea.

Traveling at the speed of light it would take us four and a half Earth years to get there, but - thanks to our newly installed improbability drive - we'll be there in a jiffy. We can't engage the drive within the solar system, however, so, as I'm sure you've heard, we'll be using the Sun's gravity to slingshot us out of the system. One must obey the laws of Physics, ya know. Anyway, we will reach perihelion about 16 minutes after we've left Earth's orbit averaging 0.49 times the speed of light as we're heading toward the Sun and 0.98 on our way out. That means we'll be whizzing past Pluto's orbit in 4 hours. That's when I will let Major Handholder press the "Big BLUE Button". We're currently waiting for clearance from Earth Orbit Control to engage Trans-Solar-Injection - love that. As soon as we're granted clearance, the cabin lights will dim and you will have exactly 10 seconds to secure all potentially dangerous objects, including mothers-in-law.


Alrightee, ladeez and gentlemen! This is Major Handholder, your able and eager navigator, here to provide a bit of exciting commentary to make this, the least comfortable part of the flight, a bit more interesting. As you know we have begun our Trans-Solar-Injection. That's TSI to us Pilot types. Heh. You'll be painfully plastered into your seats for the next 15 minutes, so sit back and relax. I've activated the vidscreens in each compartment so that you can see EVERYTHING that the Captain and I see. Isn't that EXCITING?!?! It's almost like you're here with us in the cockpit. WooHoo!!!

As you can see from the rear-view camera, Earth is receeding pretty quickly. Goodbye little blue dot. G'bye. Now, to turn to the front camera... Ooooh. Isn't SHE a beauty. Sol is a wonderfully perky middle-aged star. She's so full of energy, and just look at that color, folks! Hmmm. Based on its spectrum, it's classified as a G2 star. Sure, there are 30 billion others like it in the Milky Way, but it's the one I love the best. It contains more than 99.8 percent of the total mass of the Solar System. Get it? "SOL"ar system? Sol is what the Romans called it. The Greek called it Helios. I just don't get those people. It's like... they've got a different word for ... everything. Hmph.

puts diagram of sun on monitors, talks about: layers, temps, rotation, features like sunspots, prominences...

Um. Hold on folks. I'll get back to YOU in just a sec.

Hey, Hottmore. Can you read back those TSI coordinates for me, please? Something just doesn't look right about this trajectory.

Oh, like, my god.

mistake. chaos in the cockpit. ranting about sun temps. raving about fusion and "I don't want to be remembered as a sunspot". after 5 minutes...

Handholder! I think the passengers can hear every word you're saying. Is your mike "hot"?


Um. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. All of that was just my idea of a little joke, really. Heh. Heh. Everything's under control. You have NOTHING to worry about. Heh.


Um. Don't forget, your tickets are nonrefundable, ladies and gentlemen.

Is it getting warm in here, or is it just me?

Just hit the "Big BLUE Button", Handholder.

Ey ey, Captain. Here goes. I wonder where we'll end up.

Basic Research

1. Overview

Closest Star to the Earth
An ordinary G2 star, one of more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy.
Contains more than 99.8% of the total mass of the Solar System
Greeks --> Helios.
Romans --> Sol.

2. The Sun: Description

Diameter: 1,390,000km (109XEarth)
Mass: 1.989 X 1030kg (333,000XE)
Surface temp: 5800 K
Core temp: 15,600,000 K
Density: 1.41 g/mL
Rotation: 25 - 36 Earth days
Age: 4.5 b.y.

3. Motion

On a spiral arm of the Milky Way
Revolves around Galactic Center...
Outer layers exhibit differential rotation:
at the equator: every 25.4 days
near the poles: 36 days

4. Origin

Second Generation Star
Mass -> Gravity -> Pressure -> Temperature = Thermonuclear Fusion
(H --> He)
4.5 billion years ago

5. Structure

75% H and 25% He by mass
92.1% H and 7.8% He by No. of atoms
Everything else ("metals") amounts to only 0.1%
a. Core
b. Radiative Zone
c. Convective Zone
d. Photosphere
e. Corona

6. Features

Solar Flares
Solar Prominences
Sunspots - d<50,000mi, where magnetic field lines are concentrated and come out of photosphere
Solar wind, Aurora, bad FM reception

7. Exploration

Pioneer 5 - USA Solar Monitor - (Mar 1959) Still in solar orbit.
Pioneer 6 - USA Probe - 63.4 kg - (Dec 1965 – Present) Still active.
Pioneer 7 - USA Probe - 63 kg - (Aug 1966 - ?) Recently turned off.
Pioneer 8 - USA Probe - 63 kg - (Dec 1967 - Present) Still transmitting.
Pioneer 9 - USA Solar Probe - 63 kg - (Nov 1968 - Mar 1987) Still in solar orbit. Died on March 3, 1987.
Skylab -USA -(May 26, 1973) First US space station, manned for 171 days during 1973 and 1974. Included the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM), to take more than 150,000 images of the Sun. Abandoned in February 1974 and re-entered Earth's atmosphere in 1979.
Explorer 49 - USA -328 kg -(June 1973)
Helios 1 - USA & West Germany -370 kg -(Dec 1974) Still in solar orbit; came within 47 million kilometers of the Sun.
Solar Maximum Mission -USA -(Feb 1980) Designed to observe solar flares. Suffered an on-orbit failure. Repaired by STS-41C in 1984. SMM collected data until Nov. 24, 1989, and re-entered on Dec 1989.
Yohkoh - Japan/USA/England -(Aug 1991) Studied high-energy radiation from solar flares.
Helios 2 - USA & West Germany -(Jan 1976) Came within 43 million kilometers of the Sun.
Ulysses - USA & Europe - 370 kg - (Oct 1990) An International project to study the poles of the Sun and interstellar space near the poles. Used Jupiter as a gravity assist to swing out of the ecliptic plane.
SOHO - Europe - (December 12, 1995) (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) To study the Sun's internal structure. "Halo orbit" around the L1 Lagrange point --1.5 million km away from Earth where the gravitational pull of the Earth and Sun balance.
Genesis - USA Solar Wind Sample Return -(July 2001) To collect samples of solar wind particles and return them to Earth.


Relevant Images

Solar Eclipse 1994
Solar Eclipse 1994
Solar Eclipse 1994
Solar Eclipse 1994
Solar Eclipse