Colors of the Sun

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A surface that appears green absorbs all colors except green.

Light & Color: Facts (Science Trek: Idaho Public Television)

White light is a combination of all colors -- as is apparent when you shine a white light through a prism -- so anything that appears white reflects all wavelengths of light. Black is the least reflective color, it's the color of a surface that absorbs all light. If a surface isn't white, then the closer its color is to white, the more light it reflects. Pastel and off-white colors reflect more light than deep tones. Adding white to a color is called tinting the color, and it increases the color's reflectivity.

Light and Color

The contrasting procedure is to add black to decrease the reflectivity. This is called shading.

An object that is white, would look red in a red-colored light because white contains all colors. But if a blue light were shined on a red ball, the color on the ball would be very dark, because the red color only contains red, not blue, so it absorbs the blue light instead of reflecting it.


The color of an object depends on the light cast upon it. The only way to know the color of an object is to put it into sunlight or white light.

sun yellow

Darker colored objects heat up faster in the sun than light colored ones, which is why running across asphalt in bare feet can feel much hotter than walking across light-colored concrete. All other wavelengths reflect off the object. Heat is a measure of the movement of molecules in an object. The more the molecules move, the warmer the object becomes.

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Wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation resonate with molecules when the radiation is absorbed, setting them into motion and increasing heat. The more wavelengths of radiation that are absorbed, the more heat is attracted. Even objects that reflect all colors still absorb some wavelengths of radiation.

The longest of these wavelengths, known as infrared light, is invisible to the naked eye. White and black stand at opposite ends of the color spectrum. White objects reflect all visible wavelengths of light, while black objects absorb all visible wavelengths.

Why The Sun Isn't Actually Yellow

As a result, these two colors attract the least and the most heat, respectively. However, even white objects attract heat by way of infrared light — no color attracts no heat.

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Falling between white and black, objects of a given color attract heat based on how many wavelengths of visible light they reflect. Wavelengths of higher frequency result in darker colors, resulting in more absorbed heat. Red objects attract the least heat after white objects, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, which attracts the most heat of any visible color other than black.

To stay cool during the summer and keep warm during the winter, keep this rule of thumb in mind.