Does the Sun rotate? (Intermediate)

As the sun orbits around the milky way, does the sun rotate, i.e., does it spin?

The Sun does indeed rotate. Galileo noted this nearly 400 years ago when he observed sunspots. As you can see from this animation, the apparent motion of the sunspots can be used to determine the rotation speed of the Sun. As it turns out, the Sun's rotation is quite different from that of most of the planets. A rigid body such as the Earth will clearly have a single rotation rate. But since the Sun is made of gas, different parts of it rotate at different speeds. Near the Sun's equator, it completes one rotation every 24.5 Earth days. But near the poles, it's about can be over 30 Earth days. This is called "differential rotation".

Last updated Feb. 10th 2016

About the Author

Christopher Springob

Christopher Springob

Chris studies the large scale structure of the universe using the peculiar velocities of galaxies.  He got his PhD from Cornell in 2005, and is now a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Western Australia.