The Sun's Different Light: How Scientist

January 24 [Thu], 2013, 9:16
Though the sun appears yellow to the naked eye, it actually emits light in all colors, which scientists can see using specialized telescopes designed to observe wavelengths beyond the visible range.

A more colorful collection of data reveals information about different parts of the constantly changing sunand tells scientists how solar material moves around the sun's atmosphere.

There are two ways that solar telescopes can gather information from the light emitted by . There are spectrometers that can simultaneously observe different wavelengths of light, generating graphs that give a composite picture of the temperature ranges in the material around the sun.

Meanwhile, other instruments can take snapshots of the sun, capturing light in one particular wavelength that might not be visible to the naked eye. For example, the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument on NASA's powerfulcan observe light in 10 different wavelengths each chosen to highlight a particular part of the sun's atmosphere.

Here's a breakdown from NASA of what can be observed in the wavelengths that SDO captures, measured in Angstroms (one Angstrom equals one ten-billionth of a meter):

4500: The sun's surface or photosphere 1700: The sun's surface and chromosphere, a layer of the sun's atmosphere just above the photosphere 1600: A mixture between the upper photosphere and the transition region, which is between the chromosphere and the outer 304: Light from the chromosphere and the transition region 171: The corona when it's quiet, as well as the magnetic arcs known as coronal loops 193: A slightly hotter region of the corona and the much hotter material of asolar flare 211: Hotter magnetically active regions in the corona 335: Also hotter magnetically active regions in the corona 94: Regions of the corona during a solar flare 131: The hottest material in a flare

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is not the only spacecraft keeping a close eye on the sun. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, called SOHO, also monitors the sun under a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's twin Stereo spacecraft record images of the sun from two vantage points in Earth's orbit (one ahead of the planet and the other behind) in order to generate 3-D views of the sun's weather.

Follow SPACE.com on Twitter. We're also onand.

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