Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reading The Solar Rainbow


Courtesy Of EarthSky Blog -3-1-14

These SDO images from 7:25 p.m. EST on Feb. 24 show the first moments of this X-class flare in different wavelengths of light — seen as the bright spot that appears on the left limb of the sun. Hot solar material can be seen hovering above the active region in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.View larger. | Image credit: NASA/SDO
Astrophysics – understanding the physical nature of stars – was born when astronomers learned to analyze the different wavelengths of white light.

We saw this cool image at astronomer Brian Koberlein’s page on G+. It’s a collage of images of the sun taken at different wavelengths, from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The different wavelengths in white sunlight – both visible as in the rainbow, and some invisible to our human eyes – reveal the aspects of the sun’s surface and atmosphere in a way one wavelength alone never could.

Sunlight can be split into many wavelengths, or colors – including the rainbow colors of the visible spectrum – but also invisible colors that our eyes can’t see. Learning to understand the messages encoded in the many wavelengths of sunlight, or starlight, has been astronomy’s most powerful tool since about the mid-1800s. Astrophysics is in part the science of understanding the physical nature of stars, for example, what stars are made of. Astrophysics was born when astronomers learned how to analyze light in this way.

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