Is the Sun Actually Yellow?
Many people assume the sun is yellow due to its depiction in children’s books and art, as well as its appearance in the sky. However, this belief is actually a myth, as the sun’s true color is white.
The Science Behind the Sun’s Color
The sun emits light across the entire visible spectrum, which includes all the colors of the rainbow. When these colors combine, they create a white light. This phenomenon was first discovered by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century, who demonstrated that white light could be separated into its constituent colors using a prism (1).
Why Does the Sun Look Yellow?
If the sun is white, why does it appear yellow? This has to do with the Earth’s atmosphere. As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, it gets scattered by air molecules and particles. This process is called Rayleigh scattering, named after the British scientist Lord Rayleigh (2).
Rayleigh scattering scatters shorter wavelengths of light, like blue and violet, more than longer wavelengths, like red and yellow. As a result, the blue and violet light gets scattered away from our direct line of sight, leaving the longer wavelengths to dominate our perception of the sun. This is why the sun appears yellow or even orange and red during sunrise and sunset when sunlight travels through more of the Earth’s atmosphere (3).
In conclusion, the common belief that the sun is yellow is a myth. The sun’s true color is white, but it appears yellow to us due to the Earth’s atmosphere and the Rayleigh scattering effect. Armed with this newfound knowledge about our closest star, you can now help dispel this myth and share the fascinating science behind the sun’s color with others.