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The colour of the sun isn't yellow (and everyone's totally confused)

Three pantone colours - Sun Glare, Sun Orange and Sun Kiss.
None of Pantone's sun-themed colours are anywhere close to the real thing. (Image credit: Pantone)

From Hollywood movies to science classes to children's doodles, the sun has always been portrayed as the colour yellow, right? Its defining traits are that it's big, hot and yellow, but what if we told you that was wrong? (The yellow part, anyway.)

The true colour of the sun has been revealed, and if you haven't already guessed, it isn't yellow at all. Nor is it red, or orange like the media depicts. So, what colour is the sun? (Check out our piece on colour theory to find out everything from concepts to terminology.)

The white sun

A white sun looks a lot like the moon.  (Image credit: R/interestingasf*ck)

We're sorry to disappoint, it's no new exciting space colour (or a vibrant neon pink), it's actually just white - which is about as unexciting as when we discovered the colour of the universe is beige. The sun is all the colours of the rainbow, but bundled all together, they make what we know as white light.

As BBC Science Focus explains, stars like our sun emit certain colours based on how hot they are - cooler stars look red, whereas the hottest stars look blue. Our sun has settled on a temperature that should make it look slightly green, however, because of the other different colours the sun emits, it doesn't look green to the human eye.

But why do we see the sun as yellow we hear you ask? Well, it's because of the way colour and light is scattered across our atmosphere. The sun emits wavelengths and colours like blue, green and violet have short wavelengths so they disperse early in the atmosphere (hence the blue skies) but colours like red, orange and yellow with a longer wavelength project further and reach our eyes. 

We know, it's hard to wrap your head around. Reddit users were feeling just as bemused as us and one even asked the great question 'why does the sun look yellow from the space station then?' The colour of the sun we see in the media is actually culturally determined, for example, most people in the US would know it as yellow, whereas in Japan they would know it as red (the Japanese flag makes more sense now). Scientists just change the colour in photos so we can see more detail. 

the_color_of_the_sun_is_white_it_emits_almost_all from r/interestingasfuck
til_that_the_real_color_of_the_sun_is_white_it from r/todayilearned
til_the_real_color_of_our_sun_is_white_not_yellow from r/todayilearned

We feel like our whole lives have been a lie now. While we sit in a dark room and think about our new white sun, check out the delightful theory that our world is a cat playing with Australia. 

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Amelia Bamsey

Amelia Bamsey is the Staff Writer for Creative Bloq. Cornish born-and-bred, Amelia has a passion for all things art, design, photography and music. 

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3D