We just realised it’s the 20th anniversary of Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun,” a song about not being a normie or giving into ephemeral fads like soul patches. Smash Mouth never did that. “Walkin’ on the Sun” is also the title of the official Smash Mouth biography, which is very good according to the 10 reviews it got on Amazon.
On this special edition of Giz Asks, we spoke to scientists about what would happen if people actually did walk on the Sun. Unsurprisingly, no one would survive a stroll on a hot ball of plasma that can reach 15 million degrees Celsius.
Astrophysicist and Director of Outreach for the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University
What’s the surface of the sun like?
Sooooooo, there’s not really a surface to stand on! No solid boundary.
How close could a person get to the sun, realistically before burning up?
A person in space would just be screwed no matter how close/far they were. I think it’s just more that space suits aren’t designed for long term exposure so in addition to thinking about when the spacesuit might start to burn up, way before that you’ll just be way too uncomfortably hot inside (sweating and such). Like your own private sauna hell.
You would die from cosmic rays first (around 47,500,000 miles or halfway) if you were making the trip from Earth to the Sun in your spacesuit.
Director of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory
Why is “Walkin’ on the Sun” actually pretty timely right now, scientifically speaking?
The Parker Solar Probe is going to be the first piece of human engineering to get that close to the sun. It’s gonna actually touch the sun’s corona. It’ll be cool! Actually, it won’t be cool, it’ll be hot.
So you mean Grammy-nominated recording artists Smash Mouth lied? You can’t actually walk on the Sun?
There’s no bloody surface of the sun! It’s not possible because there’s no literal surface.
Planetary scientist, Director of Research for Arizona State University’s Space Technology and Science Initiative
Why is it a bad idea to walk on the sun?
The surface of the sun is about 6000°C. Tennis shoes have melted in the summer heat in places like Texas before, so needless to say they probably won’t last long on the sun.
What’s the Sun’s corona and how hot does it get?
The corona is the wispy outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere. Oddly however, unlike the Earth where the temperature of the atmosphere decreases with height (at least until you reach the exosphere), the corona is actually by far the hottest part of the sun. The surface is about 6000 °C, while the corona can exceed 1 million °C! Why this is the case is still somewhat of a stellar mystery.
The corona is so dim compared to the disk of the sun that we can’t see it with the naked eye (although you shouldn’t be staring directly at the sun anyway)—UNLESS it’s during a total solar eclipse. Then grab your eclipse glasses and stare away at the beauty of the corona!
What do you think would happen if a person actually walked on the Sun?
Smash Mouth has responded to Gizmodo with the following tweet:
— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) July 18, 2017