What tools do scientists use to study the Sun?

Scientists study the Sun using satellites and ground-based telescopes, observing everything from the sun's outer atmosphere to its surface and interior.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Artist rendering of Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in orbit (launched in 2010).


Since the magnetic field of the Sun is so important, scientists observe the Sun in as many wavelengths as possible near the various emission and absorption lines of atoms near the Sun's surface.

Since we cannot see the interior of the Sun, scientists must use indirect methods. For instance, if you strike an object, you can tell something about its substance by the way it vibrates in response (a bell will ring, and jello will just wiggle). The same applies to the Sun. The movement of material inside the Sun (such as dynamic flares and CMEs) produces pressure waves that make the Sun’s surface vibrate. With very accurate telescopes the vibrations can be measured, and then carefully analyzed to determine properties of the interior. This is a very exciting new field, helioseismology.


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