NASA Finds a Rainbow Hidden in the Sun

NASA's new photo highlights the sun's complexity.

ByABC News
December 19, 2013, 12:05 PM

Dec. 19, 2013— -- Unlike what you might have learned in elementary school art class, the sun isn't always yellow. A new photo from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center shows that it could be red, green or even purple. It just depends on how you look at it, or more accurately, how the Solar Dynamics Observatory looks at it.

Using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, the SDO, launched in 2010, can find wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye. Alex Young, associate director of heliophysics at NASA Goddard, said that each sliver in the photo corresponds to a different wavelength of ultraviolet or extreme ultraviolet light.

Each wavelength of light comes from a different temperature material and highlights a different feature of the sun. "In the two slivers on the left, you can see sunspots and this organic plant-like structure created by the magnetic fields," Young told ABC News. "Toward the center, the puffy cloud-like areas are coronal holes."

While previous attempts to photograph the sun could focus only on one wavelength at a time, the SDO can look at 10 wavelengths simultaneously. "The main reason we made this graphic was for people to see how these different structures are all connected," said Young. "Ultimately, we want to understand all of the complicated structures that drive solar activity."