Yellow, but also purple, dark red, green and blue: here are the many colors of our star revealed by the images that come from the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO).

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Everyone knows what is the color of the sun: even a small child has no doubts about it. Yet, looking at this photograph, every certainty falters.

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NASA

The many colors and many souls of our star are revealed by a collage of images at different wavelengths produced using data from the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), NASA.

But why the Sun in these images taken from the same point of view and at the same time appears so different from how we are used to see it?

Our star, like all stars, is a ball of gas at very high temperature. Thanks to its heat, just like a giant incandescent bulb it emits electromagnetic radiation at many wavelengths. These, when added together, generate visible light for our eyes, commonly called “white light”.

The sun, in fact, emits light in all colors. But since yellow is the brightest one, that is the color we see with our naked eye.

But SDO has specialized instruments which can observe light far beyond the ranges visible to the naked eye. It was launched by NASA in 2010 to achieve very high resolution images of our star. Its powerful tools allow to capture the Sun at different wavelengths, revealing for each of them the different physical phenomena that take place both inside the Sun and on its surface.

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NASA

Here are the individual images that, taken together, compose the collage of the previous photograph.

For capturing and revealing the secrets of our star, SDO generates high resolution images up to 4.096×4.096 pixels ie approximately 8 times greater than that of a typical high-definition TV.

To do this, SDO has two instruments called AIA (Atmospheric Imaging Assembly) and HDMI (Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager) that allow to take pictures in ten different wavelengths and to capture images containing data on the magnetic field and on the speed of matter ejected from the sun.

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Selecting only certain wavelengths from the stream of radiation that arrives from the sun, it is possible to separately observe the behavior of different layers of our star, isolating the phenomena in the hope of increasingly understand the way in which the solar atmosphere interacts with the surface of this gigantic ball of gas.

Do you want to see how the Sun looks like today? Go to the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) Sun Today web site to find it out!