What Color is the Sun?

What color do you think the Sun is?

The Sun is essentially all colors mixed together, which appear to our eyes as white. When we see the Sun at sunrise or sunset, it may appear yellow, orange, or red. But that is only because of its light rays being "bent" through the Earth's atmosphere, much like water droplets bend light into a rainbow.

So why are the solar images sometimes green, or blue, or red, or orange? View current images of the Sun

Actually, all forms of light and energy are part of the same phenomena: the electromagnetic spectrum. Our eyes can detect only a small amount of this energy, that portion we call "visible light." Radio waves, X-rays, microwaves, gamma rays, and the rest all have longer or shorter wavelengths than visible light, but otherwise are the same phenomena.

Scientific instruments can sometimes detect light that our eyes cannot. When people want to look at those, say, X-ray or ultraviolet images, they need to color them something that our eyes can detect. So the scientists pick some bright color, a color that would never be confused with viewing the Sun in white light. That way, we know from seeing a picture of a neon green or bright red Sun that the image was actually taken in some non-seeable version of light such as extreme ultraviolet or X-rays.

It is hard for many people, even scientists, to admit that the Sun they are so used to living with is actually white. So sometimes they even color pictures of the Sun taken in visible or "white" light to look more like something we would expect. Below is a picture of the Sun taken in visible white light, but which the scientists have processed to make it appear orange, for our benefit!

Sometimes the display color of the Sun is culturally determined. If a kindergartener in the USA colors a picture of the Sun, they will usually make it yellow. However, a kindergartener in Japan would normally color it red!

In spite of these "artistic licenses", the Sun really is white!