Thanks to a specialized telescope that unlocks wavelengths of light that humans can’t see, NASA has transformed the sun into a brilliantly colored wreath that puts the one adorning your front door to shame.
The short film, created by NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, shows the sun viewed through a number of wavelengths, invisible to the naked eye, creating tiny slices of distinctive scenery.
The clip is based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which converted the wavelengths into images that the human eye can see. Each wavelength of light represents solar material at specific temperatures, and reveals different components of the sun’s surface and atmosphere. This explains why a given area of the sun seen in one wavelength looks dramatically different when viewed through another.
Yellow-green light, for example, emanates from solar material that is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the usual temperature of the surface of the sun. Extreme ultraviolet light, colorized here in green, is useful for studying solar flares, quick and powerful bursts of energy, because it radiates from atoms that are about 11 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Studying pictures of the sun in different wavelengths allows scientists to track how particles and heat move through the star’s atmosphere. For the layperson, such images, set to a soft piano melody, are simply really cool to look at.