“The sun is a miasma
Of incandescent plasma
The sun’s not simply made out of gas
No, no, no
The sun is a quagmire
It’s not made of fire
Forget what you’ve been told in the past” -They Might Be Giants

Ask anyone where the Sun (or any star) gets its energy from, and most people will correctly answer “nuclear fusion.” But if you ask what’s getting fused, most people — including most scientists — will tell you that the Sun fuses hydrogen into helium, and that’s what powers it. It’s true that the Sun uses hydrogen as its initial fuel, and that helium-4 is indeed the end product, but the individual reactions that take place to turn hydrogen into helium are surprisingly diverse and intricate.

The most straightforward and lowest-energy version of the proton-proton chain, which produces helium-4 from initial hydrogen fuel. Note that only the fusion of deuterium and a proton produces helium from hydrogen; all other reactions either produce hydrogen or make helium from other isotopes of helium. Image credit: Sarang / Wikimedia Commons.

There are actually four major reactions that take place in the Sun: fusing two protons into deuterium, fusing deuterium and a proton into helium-3, fusing two helium-3 nuclei into helium-4, and fusing helium-3 and helium-4 in a chain reaction to produce two helium-4 nuclei. Note that only one of those reactions actually turns hydrogen into helium, and that’s not what makes up either the majority of reactions or the majority of the Sun’s energy!

This cutaway showcases the various regions of the surface and interior of the Sun, including the core, which is where nuclear fusion occurs. Although hydrogen is converted into helium, the majority of reactions, and the majority of the energy that powers the Sun, comes from other sources. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Kelvinsong.

The Sun fuses hydrogen into helium, but that’s not the only thing that powers it. Come find out how the Sun really works today!


  1. #1 Frank
    September 5, 2017

    All cutaway views of sun I had seen show its center as the brightest region. But I think if we could really see inside of sun almost all of it would look black. Because I think visible light is produced close to the surface. Am I right on this?

  2. #2 Candice H. Brown Elliott
    Silicon Valley
    September 5, 2017


    This is one of those Berkelian questions… since we can’t actually do a cut-away. However, no, the region inside of the core would still be amazingly hot and does radiate in the visible region… but that most of the energy in the core is radiating at high energies up into the gamma. So, it would still be bright in the visible. You might want to look up ‘black body radiation’. As the temperature goes up, the energy peak goes up (shorter wavelength/higher energy per photon)… but so does the amount of energy in non-peak wavelengths.

    As the energy passes from the convention zone to the surface, the volume of the mass that is available goes up so the temp goes down and at the very surface, the temp cools such that the peak is now in the visible range (of course it is! That’s because we evolved to use the peak range to see!)

  3. #3 Axil
    September 5, 2017

    I can’t understand or accept that the proton proton fusion reaction rate can produce the energy output at the core of the Sun when its reaction cross section is 14 billion years.



    For consistency, all time scales reported here are taken from Clayton (1968). The only reaction that is of uncertain time scale is the initial proton-proton fusion, which is too slow to measure in a laboratory. So the time scale is computed from basic theory. Hansen & Kawaler (1994) give the time scale 6,000,000,000 years, whereas Clayton gives 7,900,000,000. Bohme-Vitense (1992) gives 14,000,000,000 years, but for the lower temperature of 14,000,000 Kelvins. The one thing that is certain is that the reaction is slow.

    Table 1
    86% of 3He goes out this way

    p + p –> d + e+ + nu 7.9 x 10^9 years
    p + p + e- –> d + nu 10^12 years
    d + p –> 3He + g 1.4 sec
    3He + 3He –> 4He + 2p 2.4 x 10^5 years

  4. #4 eric
    September 5, 2017

    Did you bother to read the article you quote from? Because, he gives the answer in the same paragraph as your quote: “The time scales represent how long an average particle will survive, in our sun, before experiencing the reaction. But of course many react much more quickly, many will last far longer, and many will never react at all.”

    There’s roughly 10E53 protons in the sun. So ‘many react much more quickly’ does the job just fine.

  5. #5 Klavs Hansen
    September 5, 2017

    cross sections are not measured in time units but in length units squared. These details are actually relevant. May I suggest you spend a little more time thinking about these matters?
    If you have questions, please feel free to ask.

  6. #6 Axil
    September 7, 2017


    The same argument can be made to “prove” that proton decay is where the energy of the sun comes from. There are many protons inside the sun and a certain percentage will decay producing a GeV per decay. The exit energy of the particles in the solar wind escaping the sun’s gravity indicate a very high powered energy source driving the Sun’s energy reactions. Fusion does not produce that high level of energy.

  7. #7 Axil
    September 7, 2017



    Ultradense hydrogen H(0) is a very dense hydrogen cluster phase with H-H distances in the picometer range. It has been studied experimentally in several publications from our group. A theoretical model exists which agrees well with laser-pulse-induced time-of-flight spectra and with rotational spectroscopy emission spectra. Coulomb explosions in H(0) in spin state s = 1 generate protons with kinetic energies larger than the retaining gravitational energy at the photosphere of the Sun. The required proton kinetic energy above 2 keV has been directly observed in published experiments. Such protons may be ejected from the Sun and are proposed to form the solar wind. The velocity distributions of the protons are calculated for three different ejecting modes from spin state s = 1. They agree well with both the fast and the slow solar winds. The best agreement is found for H(0) cluster sizes of 3 and 20–50 atoms; such clusters have been studied experimentally previously. The properties of ultradense hydrogen H(0) give also a few novel possibilities to explain the high corona temperature of the Sun.

  8. #8 Klavs Hansen
    September 7, 2017

    Decaying protons and cold fusion. Sigh. What’s next? Protocol of the Zion elders?

  9. #9 eric
    September 7, 2017

    The same argument can be made to “prove” that proton decay is where the energy of the sun comes from.

    If you had an experimentally determined half-life for proton decay, yes we could factor that into the sun’s thermodynamics. I’m sure some mainstream physicist would do that within a year of proton decay being discovered, just out of curiosity. But as of now proton decay has never been observed, while these other reactions have been, so no, the argument doesn’t support both mechanisms equally.

  10. #10 Confused
    M I T
    September 7, 2017

    What about words like “Anti Matter”? Eh? Ah, now you have all gone quiet!

  11. #11 Klavs Hansen
    September 8, 2017

    What about words like salami? or hokou? or Tværgade? Eh? Why so silent, Confused?

  12. #12 Axil
    September 9, 2017

    It is generally accepted that metallic hydrogen plays a role in the Sun’s energy engine. Some people think that the Sun is a liquid and not a plasma. The Sun can only be one and not the other. If metallic hydrogen is present on the Sun, then the Sun must be a liquid.


    Metallic hydrogen is a special form of matter. Holmlid has been studying its properties for more than 30 years. Through experiments, Holmlid has shown that metallic hydrogen is a superconductive based microparticle that has a positive core and a shell of electrons which form a spin wave. That spin wave is topologically protected ftom heat and pressure. The superconductive nature of these microparticle leads to magnetic effects that are not usually found in other natural systems. Specifically, unbalance magnetic fields will tend to produce magnetic vortex formation.

    The QCD vacuum angle θ (AKA theta angle) is central to the decay of the proton. When this angle is very small…close to zero…, the proton does not decay, but when instantons are formed inside the proton, the theta angle increases. This change in the nature of the vacuum inside the proton produced by instanton formation generates proton decay.

    For associated theory see:


    Effects of instanton interactions on the phases of quark matter

    This paper explains how the formation of instantons inside the proton will produce P symmetry breaking which will result in proton decay. Anisometric magnetic field lines can generate instantons as a reaction to energy minimization processes in interactions with fermions.

    Another example of pseudo particle formation from magnetic energy is the formation of magnetic instantons in the fractional quantum hall effect. This demonstrates an example of how magnetic field lines can generate fractionally charged pseudo particles as typified by composite fermion theory.


  13. #13 Klavs Hansen
    September 9, 2017

    I got your angle. You are not a nutcase. You are really just a sociology student masquerading as a nutcase as part of an exam project. The response of scientists to your completely off-the-wall statements will be the raw material for your thesis.
    Please put it on the web, once its done. It will be interesting to read.

  14. #14 Axil
    September 9, 2017

    @Klavs Hansen

    Professor Huw Price has an opinion on the response presented by professional science to the ideas held by their divergent progeny (aka nutcases).

    Huw Price is Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and a fellow of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He is also academic director of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. His most recent book is Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism (2013).


    In summary regarding the fear of reputational damage in the field of science:

    “I would like to say how truly sorry I am that society has attacked you for the last three decades. The treatment of Fleischmann and Pons, and the treatment of many of you, by mainstream institutions and the media will go down in history as one more example of scientific infanticide, where entrenched interests kill off their divergent progeny. This seems to be a dark component of human nature, and I note the irony of it – we are in Padova, Galileo’s home.

    It would be easy to overstate the analogy between mainstream institutions and the Inquisition, but it isn’t entirely empty. If we refuse to acknowledge the possibility that existing scientific institutions are not working as well as they might, we do something to reinforce it. If the reputation trap makes it impossible to question the role of the reputation trap, then the Cardinals are winning.”

  15. #15 Klavs Hansen
    September 9, 2017

    Axil, you’ve been made. No reason to keep up the charade. It is Saturday night where you live. Go get a couple of beers with the buddies.

  16. #16 Axil
    September 9, 2017

    @Klavs Hansen

    I have no desire to offend. On the contrary, your background and experience is uniquely suited and is an excellent match to understand and to pass judgment on the true nature and causation of LENR. Your colleague and fellow member of the faculty of the University of Gothenburg in the Department of Chemistry, Leif Holmlid, has performed experiments that lend insight into the true nature of LENR as a consequence of the behavior and characteristics of metallic hydrogen. Leif Holmlid is producing results that are hard to believe. Yet I am placing a large dollop of trust in his experimental findings. You are uniquely positions to judge Holmlid either as a nutjob or a responsible and eminent researcher. If Holmlid’s research holds merit then the power generated by LENR that is based on fusion is wrong.

    The view of LENR that Holmlid’s research portends is predicated on the control and manipulation of the quarks inside of matter. If these quarks can be manipulated and managed, control of matter at any arbitrary distance might one day be possible and form the basis of some of my fondest dreams.
    Atomic weapons could be disabled at a distance when the fissile elements are transmuted into non fissile ones by a muon beam. The atmosphere of Venus could be modified to remove the Co2 so that Venus could be made habitable.

    The core of Mars could be reactivated with nuclear fire to restore the magnetic shield that once protected its atmosphere in the first step at terraforming Mars into someplace that can be colonized by mankind. Then Co2 could be created to start a heated atmosphere to heat Mars to livable temperatures.

    In moving the vision of mankind’s future father out from the solar system into deep space, there is near light speed spacecraft engines that become possible to build that are driven by near light speed subatomic particles.

    The energy source that the work of Holmlid is exploring might prove to make interstellar travel practicable. Holmlid first assumed that the energy produced by the reaction he was studying was some sort of hot fusion reaction activated by laser ignition. But when Holmlid studied the type of sub atomic particles that were being generated, he recognized that fusion could not possibly generate the huge amount of power that the reaction was producing. Atomic fragments are reaching ¾ light speed from the LENR reaction zone. For example, Holmlid detected Kaon triplet generation. He postulates that two protons are being destabilized into decay to produce three kaons and 390 MeV of binding energy. This very same proton decay reaction was one of the target reaction searched for by the Super-Kamiokande proton decay detector to prove that protons must decay in support of grand unification supersymmetric theory.

    The proton is assumed to be absolutely stable in the Standard Model. However, the Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) predict that protons can decay into lighter energetic charged particles such as electrons, muons, pions or others which can be observed. Kamiokande helps to rule out some of the theories. Super-Kamiokande is currently the largest detector for observation of proton decay.

    As a person who would like to see science fiction made real, the proton decay action could increase the energy yield by 100,000 over what was postulated in the Bussard ramjet interstellar system.

    The Bussard ramjet is a theoretical method of interstellar spacecraft propulsion proposed in 1960 by the physicist Robert W. Bussard. Bussard proposed a ramjet variant of a fusion rocket capable of reasonable interstellar travel, using enormous electromagnetic fields (ranging from kilometers to many thousands of kilometers in diameter) as a ram scoop to collect and compress hydrogen from the interstellar medium.

    When proton decay is used as a power source for the Ramjet, once the hydrogen is collected, it would be isotopically purified and the deuterium would be stored in a separate container. The purified hydrogen then enters storage to even out the collection of interstellar gas. This storage strategy will enable the ramjet to maneuver freely in space without concern for variations in the density of residual hydrogen throughout space. From storage the hydrogen gas is metered into a Holmlid reaction chamber were the hydrogen is ignited into high energy plasma via the catalyzed LENR reaction.

    Since the continued propulsion of a proton powered ramjet spaceship is dependent on interstellar hydrogen, the nature of interstellar hydrogen is the main issue of concern when designing such a spaceship. Two aspects of particular interest are the overall density and the isotopic composition of the interstellar hydrogen. The overall density controls the rate at which proton reactions can take place relative to the craft’s speed and the size of the scoop’s area. The isotopic composition determines which reaction pathway is best to use

    The interstellar density of hydrogen is 0.86 atoms/cm3. At a minimum, the energy gain relationship determined by Holmlid was found to be 390 MeV per each diproton reaction (two hydrogen atoms). For deuterium fusion, only 10 MeV can be generated per reaction. In the proton reaction, the remainder of the proton mass and associated electrons is used as reaction mass. From this info, the scoop volume might be calculated as of function of spacecraft speed. The faster you go the more hydrogen that you can harvest.

    There is a minimum takeoff speed required before the sustainable energy relationship is met and the scoop volume may be reduced as the Ramjet accelerates.

    There is more mass/energy content in deuterium which is about 1 atom out of 5000 captured.

    When fusion produces power for the Ramjet, only deuterium can be used. When proton decay provides power to the Ramjet, all hydrogen isotopes can be used and much of the energy content of the protons can be converted into energy.

    Holmlid uses a potassium doped Shell 105 ethylene catalyst with graphene as a quantum mechanical template on an iridium substrate to produce ultra-dense hydrogen via a quantum mechanical effect call Rydberg blockade. Once formed, metallic hydrogen can be excited into nuclear disassociation through the application of an EMF stimulus.

    I like the proton decay reaction as a basis to support a light speed capable interstellar motor as only one of the many applications of this technology. I have already shown experimental proof of transmutation of carbon into a multitude of transition metals. As discovered by Holmlid, LENR produces sub atomic particles, mostly muons and hydrogen nuclear fragments moving at ¾ light speeds. And even better, LENR produces its own energy from muon based catalyzed fusion as a side reaction. This fusion energy would be used to sustain the electromagnetic hydrogen collection fields.

    Yes, I stand before you humbled by your eminence and revealed as a dreamer or a fool, it is up to you to judge.
    For those with an open mind, taking the work of Holmlid seriously might be the first step in reaching the stars. Can you give me any hope that these dreams of a new epoch in science are at hand?

    See as follows to render judgment:


    Mesons from Laser-Induced Processes in Ultra-Dense Hydrogen H(0)

    Leif Holmlid

  17. #17 Elle H.C.
    September 10, 2017


    “For associated theory see:


    Effects of instanton interactions on the phases of quark matter

    This paper explains how the formation of instantons inside the proton will produce P symmetry breaking which will result in proton decay.”

    That’s an interesting paper but it doesn’t talk about Proton decay.

    What is talked about is decay and phase change of Quark matter, which are deconfined quarks, and which was produced during the Big bang, or in High-energy collisions (LHC) and also a special class of Neutron stars, called Magnetars, but not the Sun.

  18. #18 Klavs Hansen
    September 10, 2017

    you just do that. I expect you will be busy with all these jobs but still, if you have time left over please DO NOT succumb to the temptation to reverse the direction of rotation of Earth. Damned difficult to keep track of all these time zones then. Although it probably is tempting.

  19. #19 Axil
    September 11, 2017

    @Elle H.C.

    It is my belief that there are certain micro particles that can produce hugely strong magnetic effects at the nanoscale. This magnetic flux lines produce the instantons inside protons that elicit the effect on quarks as detected in the referenced article. One of these micro-particle types is metallic hydrogen which is almost always produced inside large planets and stars. In order for instantons to form inside the proton, the magnetic flux lines that catalyze this effect must come from a very powerful magnetic source and be unbalanced or anisotropic (vortex like).

    Metallic hydrogen is a good candidate as the source of such strong anisotropic magnetic field lines because of its vortex like wave function and it inherent tendency for coherence.



    An attempt is made to explain the recently reported occurrence of 14 MeV neutron induced nuclear reactions in deuterium metal hydrides as the manifestation of a slightly radioactive ultra-dense form of deuterium, with a density of 130,000 g/cm3 observed by a Swedish research group through the collapse of deuterium Rydberg matter. In accordance with this observation it is proposed that a large number of deuterons form a “linear-atom” supermolecule. By the Madelung transformation of the Schrödinger equation, the linear deuterium supermolecule can be described by a quantized line vortex. A vortex lattice made up of many such supermolecules is possible only with deuterium, because deuterons are bosons, and the same is true for the electrons, which by the electron–phonon interaction in a vortex lattice form Cooper pairs. It is conjectured that the latent heat released by the collapse into the ultra-dense state has been misinterpreted as cold fusion. Hot fusion though, is here possible through the fast ignition of a thermonuclear detonation wave from a hot spot made with a 1 kJ 10 petawatt laser in a thin slice of the ultra-dense deuterium.

    Holmlid has found experimentally that he sees the same results with protium as he sees with deuterium so protium based metallic hydrogen can be superconductive, coherent, and entangled also. This Bose condensate nature of the metalize hydride microparticle is essential to the super-radiance required to step up the power of the magnetic field projected by the micro-particle.

    It has been observed experimentally that these micro-particles exist is swarms and act in a coordinated way to project a combined coherent magnetic effect as an amplified sum of the entire aggregation of particles..

    The fixation on fusion in the mind of many including Holmlid works against understanding the true source of energy generation in condensed matter systems. That true source is the magnetically induced decay of the nucleon.