Why Does NASA Observe The Sun in Different Colors?

Narration: Joy Ng


When you take a picture of the sky, you might see this: an overexposed, bright, white glare that we know as the Sun.

In photos, the Sun appears white because it emits all the colors we can see at once.

Our eyes can only see a narrow range of light known as the visible spectrum.

When they combine together, they make white light.  

But the Sun also emits light that is invisible to the naked eye.

These are images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO.

It was launched in 2010 and has been observing the Sun from space in a way that our eyes cannot.

SDO uses instruments with special filters to see the Sun in 10 different wavelengths of light, including many that we can’t see with our own eyes.

For us to see them, Scientists convert SDO’s data to colors we can see.

The different colors correspond to different temperatures and regions on the Sun.

This allows us to study how the Sun releases material that can travel across the solar system and affect our technology in space and on Earth.

These wavelengths show us the Sun’s upper atmospheric layers at different temperatures.

This wavelength highlights filaments and prominences.

These wavelengths highlight the corona, the Sun’s atmosphere that is much hotter than the Sun’s surface and shows features like coronal loops and coronal holes.

The wavelengths here reveal the Sun’s active regions, which have intense magnetic activity that sometimes give rise to eruptions.

These wavelengths can see the hottest material in a solar flare.

Being able to see constant movement of material on the Sun and in its atmosphere can help scientists better understand how our Sun behaves and how to track storms that might affect our satellites and astronauts in space or communications on Earth.