The Sun: Essence of all
Special to the Daily
The Weather Channel talks about who’s getting too much or too little of it. The Beatles sang of its coming. It’s inspired novels, poems, and is even worshipped by some. It literally makes the world go ’round.
The sun is not a planet as many assume; it’s a star. It is formed of a mixture of hot plasma tangled up with magnetic fields and burns at a temperature of approximately 10,000 degrees F at its surface alone (it gets progressively hotter as you venture toward its core). It’s the central feature of our solar system and Earth’s basic source of light, energy and heat – a vital force that determines much of our daily behaviors and habits. It affects when we wake and go to sleep, our choice of clothing, our modes of transportation, and even our moods.
Experts argue the notion that more sunlight exposure directly correlates to happier people. Scientific studies have reported that sunny weather triggers the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which, among other things, makes people more alert and cheerful. Here in Colorado, where we experience an average of 300 sunny days per year, it’s safe to say that if it’s true that more sunshine means better moods, we’ve got no shortage of elated residents. We also get secondary benefits from the sun, in the form of outdoor play. Warm, dry days mean we can be out enjoying mountain trails and roads by foot or bike, getting exercise which brings with it higher endorphin levels, reduced stress, and higher self-esteem.
The sun is good for us in other ways: It provides us with essential Vitamin D which helps promote the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. Increased calcium absorption strengthens bones and decreases risks for osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Those of us who live and play the High Country, though, know well the importance of being wary of too much sun exposure. At high altitudes, the sun’s rays are more intense; UV radiation is increased by approximately 4 percent for every 1,000 feet of altitude. That means your skin can burn a lot faster, and a lot more drastically, at 9,000 or 10,000 feet than at sea level.
As the Earth orbits around the sun and simultaneously rotates on its axis, the intensity and duration of its presence changes. Here in the northern hemisphere, we face the sun during May, June, and July – our summer months. The tilt of the Earth during those months means the sun is higher in the sky and our days are longer. In the southern hemisphere, places like Australia have their summer during the holiday season of December and January.
Here in Summit County, you may have noticed that the sun has seemed less present lately. Mornings are feeling a bit crisper, geese are migrating south, and local bears are loading up on food in preparation for their months of hibernation. As you switch your summer shorts for winter jackets, rest assured that while our portion of the Earth is indeed veering away from the sun, it won’t be gone for long. When its annual journey is complete, we’ll once again feel the strength of its warmth.
Monica Diaz is administrative and logistics coordinator for Keystone Science School. For more information about our programs, please call (970) 468-2098 or visit our website, http://www.keystonescienceschool.org.
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