The kernel is the core program of an operating system that controls the essential system processes and manages hardware and software interactions. It is the first operating system component to be loaded into RAM on startup. Once loaded, the kernel organizes the initialization of other OS components. It remains in the memory until the system shutdown, performing low-level tasks such as the management of devices, memory, resources, and tasks. Kernels are divided into five types, according to their architecture - monolithic, micro, hybrid, nano, and exokernels.