Why Isn't the Sun Green?

December 6, 2018

What is the actual color of the Sun?  Our star gives off more green than any other color! So why does the Sun look orangish instead of greenish? Bob explains.

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Listen to a weekly freewheeling exploration of the astonishing world of science! What’s the most inexplicable object in the cosmos? When is Doomsday coming? The heaviest thing in the universe? Nikola Tesla’s dark secret? All this and more, each week on Astounding Universe podcast with Bob Berman, astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

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Sun's colour.

In some H-R Diagrams colors are coded with the wavelength for which star emits the most of its energy. When we use this criterion, we should use green for the Sun. But why don’t we see green stars (from Earth or space)? It is because stars emit energy in a really wide range. Even if the peak falls in green, a lot of energy is emitted in all colors, from blue to red. And with our eyes, we always observe the mixture of those colors. If you add a bit of blue to green, you will get something our eyes interpret as a tint of blue, and when you add something from the red side - you get yellow.
So, when you see a colorful H-R diagram, remember that choice of colors is up to its author and the palette used does not necessarily represent the real colors of stars. With that in mind, we might remember that our Star is a Yellow Dwarf, after all. I suppose a "Green Mother", would appeal to some, but Superman likes it yellow, and I'd really prefer a nice indigo. I suppose it's all in how you see it.