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The real color of the sun is white. The reason that the Sun looks yellow to us is because the Earth’s atmosphere scatters higher wavelength colors, like red, orange and yellow less easily. Hence, these wavelengths are what we see, which is why the Sun appears yellow.
As a child, you almost certainly drew the Sun in the shape of a face on your notebook, and invariably, the color of the Sun’s face would have been yellow. If you had been a fan of sunsets and sunrises, however, then the color of your Sun’s face would have been orange or red.
However, you might be surprised to know that the Sun is not orange, yellow, or anything in between. In fact, the color of the Sun is WHITE!
This was my reaction when I heard that too! Even I didn’t believe it, but it’s true. The Sun, when looked at through outer space, looks perfectly white!
But why does the Sun look yellow if it’s really white? Well, let’s find out.
How the Sun Gets Its Color
The light emitted by the Sun is actually white, which is a composite of all the visible frequencies of light. In fact, using a prism, you can break sunlight into the full spectrum of its colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet; all of which form the colors of the rainbow. Red light has the highest wavelength and blue has the lowest wavelength.
The reason that the Sun looks yellow to us is because of Earth’s atmosphere. The earth’s atmosphere scatters away light in the blue, indigo and violet wavelength region, while higher wavelength colors, like red, orange and yellow are less easily scattered. These remaining wavelengths are what we see, which is why the Sun appears yellow. Earth’s atmosphere is the reason why the sky appears blue in the daytime, rather than black, like it is at night.
In fact, when the Sun is closer to Earth’s horizon, more of the blue light is scattered away by the atmosphere, which makes the Sun look more reddish at sunset and sunrise; for this reason, that is why the sky also looks more reddish at these times.
Color of the sun in space
When the Sun is viewed from space, it appears perfectly white, as the light emitted from the Sun is not scattered by Earth’s atmosphere; astronomers are able to see the true color of the Sun.
We are so used to the idea that the color of the Sun is yellow, and that is why astronomers sometimes color the picture of the ‘white’ sun they have taken to yellow or red. Crazy, right? It’s getting harder and harder to trust these astronauts every day. Now that we’re on the subject, did we really visit the moon or not?
Now that you know all of this, next time your teacher asks you to draw a picture of the Sun, draw it in white instead. When your teacher asks you why your Sun is not yellow in color, simply give her a quick lesson on atmosphere, light, and the world all around her!