There is no oxygen in space then how can sun burn?

The three requirements for burning, as we know are reacting substance or fuel, a source of Oxygen or oxidizer and a

Sun

Sun

source of heat to start the process of combustion. In the absence of even any one of the above given requirements, combustion or burning is not possible.

Now we also know that the outer space is a seemingly empty area present in between the various celestial bodies found in our universe. Nearly a perfect vacuum, it is characterized by an absence of molecules of any gas, including oxygen.

What is nuclear fusion?

Thus we know that at least one of the requirements of the triangle of combustion is not present in outer space. Then how does the sun burn? To understand the meaning of the “burning of the sun” we need to first understand a type of nuclear reaction called nuclear fusion.

Fusion means “to combine” and when two or more atomic nuclei combine to form a single unit, the process is called nuclear fusion. This process does not need the presence of oxygen yet releases huge amounts of energy.

What are atoms?

Each and everything in this universe is made up of atoms which can be said to be the smallest unit of all objects. Every atom consists of a central part known as the nucleus which comprises of neutrons which are neutral and protons which are positively charged. This central core is surrounded by the negatively changed electrons which revolve round the nucleus. The attraction between the protons and the electrons gives stability to an atom.

How does the sun burn?

To further understand the so called “burning of the sun” we need to know the some very important facts about nuclear fusion taking place in the sun. We already know that the huge amounts of energy radiated by the sun, which practically sustains our universe, is a direct consequence of the nuclear fusion happening in its core. This energy is also said to be renewable or never ending. Let us look at how and why.

  • The sun like all stars is made up of huge amounts of gasses primarily hydrogen and helium. When the nuclei of these fast moving atoms rapidly collide, they tend to fuse together at extremely high temperatures forming a new nucleus with a higher atomic weight.
  • In this process of fusion, the mass which is lost gets converted into energy thereby resulting in the “burning of the sun”
  • We know that like charges repel each other. Hence for any nuclear fusion to take place, this repulsion between like charges needs to be overcome which is only possible at the extraordinarily high temperatures of the sun’s core. Hence the process of nuclear fusion in the sun only takes place at its core only.

The process by which nuclear fusion happens in the sun

There are basically two major processes by which nuclear fusion takes place in the Sun. They are :

a)      The chain reaction of proton to proton which results in the fusion of the atoms of hydrogen to form helium and is the dominant process of fusion taking place in the sun

b)      The CNO or the Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen cycle which occurs only marginally here but also involves the formation of helium from a fusion of hydrogen atoms with the help of the three catalysts—oxygen, carbon and nitrogen.

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