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NOVA: Secrets Of The Sun

Airs Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TVCANCELLED

Graphic showing the Sun's rotation. Unlike the Earth, the Sun rotates at diff...

Credit: Courtesy of National Geographic Television

Above: Graphic showing the Sun's rotation. Unlike the Earth, the Sun rotates at different speeds. It turns faster at the equator than at the poles, so a ‘day’ at the equator is shorter than a day near the poles. It also spins at different speeds under its brilliant surface.

It contains 99.9 percent of all the matter in our solar system and sheds hot plasma at nearly a million miles an hour. The temperature at its core is a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It convulses, it blazes, it sings. You know it as the sun. Scientists know it as one of the most amazing physics laboratories in the universe.

Now, with the help of new spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes, scientists are seeing the sun as they never have before and even re-creating in labs what happens at the very center of the sun. Their work will helps us understand aspects of the sun that have puzzled scientists for decades.

But more critically, it may help us predict and track solar storms that have the power to zap our power grid, shut down telecommunications and ground global air travel for days, weeks, even longer.

Such storms have occurred before — but never in the modern era of satellite communication. "Secrets Of The Sun" reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star — one that might help keep our planet from going dark.

This program originally aired in 2012.

NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Preview: NOVA: Secrets Of The Sun

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Watch Secrets of the Sun Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.

"Secrets of the Sun" reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star — one that might help keep our planet from going dark.

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