What kind of light does the Sun emit?

The Sun shines in many ‘colors’ of light. Just like there are sounds that humans can’t hear, most of the ‘colors’ of light that the Sun sends out cannot be seen by humans. What we can see with our eyes is called visible light. It is made up of all the colors in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Red light has less energy than the other colors in the rainbow. Next comes orange then yellow until you get to purple that has more energy than the other colors.

The Sun gives off light that has even more energy than purple. One type of this light is called ultraviolet (UV) and it can give you a sunburn. Another type of light with a lot of energy are X-rays, just like you get when you go to the dentist. X-rays are light too! We just can’t see them. Types of light that have less energy than we can see are infrared, microwave and radio. Your microwave heats your food with microwave light that we can’t see. If you turn on a radio you are using another type of light that you can’t see. The Sun, and the stars, give off all these kinds of light!

As you can see in this figure, the Sun gives off most of its energy as visible light.

Sunlight spectrum above Earth's atmosphere as a function of wavelength

Sunlight spectrum above Earth's atmosphere as a function of wavelength.

Public Domain Image, image source: Christopher S. Baird, data source: American Society for Testing and Materials Terrestrial Reference

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