Sun's energy fuels questions in the mind of a kindergartner

October 15, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

Have you noticed the brilliant early morning skies we've had of late?

So many colors - navy, purple, pink - seem to burst forth from the heavens.

I feel it's as if God knew we'd have trouble crawling out of bed on crisp fall mornings, so he provided a reward for those who resist the snooze alarm.

On a recent morning, I quietly made my way to the kitchen to enjoy a cup of coffee before waking the children. My hands held on to the warmth of the mug while my eyes feasted on the artistry in the sky.

It was a rare moment, for I often take surroundings for granted.

Thankfully, there are children in my life who remind me to take pleasure in the simple things.

There was the time when my 5-year-old sat staring out the window with an untouched pancake on her plate. Just as I prepared to scold her for not eating - have to keep to the schedule, you know - she looked at me and asked a question.


"What does the sun eat for breakfast, Mommy?"

I could see the snicker forming on my 9-year-old's face as he said, "The sun doesn't eat. It's not a person or an animal."

While his response was accurate, I could sense that her question was more than what it seemed.

We're always telling our kids to eat a good breakfast so they'll have energy to perform well in school, to shine their brightest and do their best.

I could see my daughter sitting there, looking at the beauty of the sunrise, thinking that if the sun has that much energy, I'll have what it's having. And supersize that, please.

Who really knows what goes on in the mind of a kindergartner ....

In regards to the sun, a bowl of cereal just won't suffice.

The sun gets energy from nuclear fusion. In the sun's core, 700 million tons of hydrogen is converted to helium each second. As the nuclei of four hydrogen atoms combine into one helium nucleus, light, heat and radiation are produced.

The sun's temperature ranges from about 10,000 degrees on the surface to about 27 million degrees at the core.

As the sun travels around the Milky Way galaxy at about 150 miles per second, Earth and eight other planets (Can you name them?) spin around the sun.

Only Earth can preserve water and sustain life because of its distance from the sun and its atomosphere, the thin layer of gases surrounding it.

Without an atomosphere, the temperature on Earth would reach 250 degrees on the side facing the sun and would dip to minus 250 degrees on the side away from the sun.

(Just in case you're still thinking about it, the planets that revolve around the sun are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Here's some ways to remember them, courtesy of my son's former teachers: My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas, or My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pickles. You also can create one of your own. Just use the first letter of each planet to make a catchy statement.)

And now, back to the sun.

Because plants use sunlight to make food, the sun's energy is transferred to us each time we eat plants or products from plant-eating animals.

So enjoy that last spoonful of milk in your cereal bowl. The sun made it possible.

Most of the factual information for this article came from Kids Discover magazine's October 2002 issue on the sun. For more information about Kids Discover magazine, a commercial-free publication designed for ages 6 and older, go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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