The Sun is our nearest star. Its thorough study permits to extend results to other stars for which one does not think at once to encounter features first discovered on the Sun: spots, differential rotation, oblateness, radial surface displacements, etc. The Sun is thus an irreplaceable laboratory, as much as physical conditions prevailing there are often hardly reproducible on Earth. In this chapter, we do not intend to give an exhaustive survey of what we know about our Sun. We want only to give an original lighting on topical questions related to the subject of this book, based on stellar spectroscopy, and we will focus on what we call the solar code. What can we learn from the solar spectrum? More generally, what are we learning from solar oscillations and from the activity cycle? This chapter is divided into three parts, bearing in mind that results obtained on the Sun are transferable to other stars.
In a first part, we will show that the electromagnetic light code permits to access to different atmospheric solar layers. In a second part, we will show that the sound code is a fantastic tool for investigating the internal structure and the dynamics of the Sun. Thus tackled, the Sun is “peeled” as an onion, each successive shells giving an indication on the physical conditions acting in the studied layer, starting from the external atmosphere, crossing the free surface, to progressively go deeper inside, down to the core. In the third part, we will emphasize the “shape” concept, as departures to sphericity are essential in such an approach. This also allows us to study some global astrophysical properties, such as the angular momentum, the gravitational moments and the effect of distortion induced on the visible surface. We will conclude by extending such ideas to other stars, and especially by mentioning new results obtained on the oblateness of Altair and Achernar, including gravity darkening and geometrical distortion.
We intentionally replaced this whole matter in an instrumental context, by highlighting the observations, to the detriment of mathematical formulations, often tempting, but difficult: the reader will be able to find them, thanks to the many bibliographical references given.