The Sun in Infrared Light

The Sun in Infrared Light

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Did you know your body emits infrared light? Infrared light is heat, the same as the heat your body gives off. More than half the Sun's power output is in the form of infrared light, though much of it is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere. The picture here is made from light with a wavelength of 1083 nanometers. (That's a little more than a thousandth of a millimeter.) It shows some features of the Sun's chromosphere, and some features in the corona.

Infrared pictures often show dark markings on the Sun that are caused by absorption of the infrared light. Some of the light is absorbed wherever it collides with gas in the Sun's atmosphere, so the darker features in an infrared picture show where the gas is more dense. If there are filaments on the Sun, or loops near active regions, they typically show up dark. The coronal holes in the north and south poles typically show up as slightly brighter than the rest of the solar disk. Compare this to the appearance of the north and south poles in the X-ray pictures.

This picture comes from the National Solar Observatory at Kitt Peak, in Arizona.

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