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Sunlight through trees in the National park Sviati Hory, Ukraine. Nizhnii rankovii svitlo.jpg
Sunlight through trees in the National park Sviati Hory, Ukraine.
Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida from Apollo 7. Apollo 7 Florida.jpg
Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida from Apollo 7.

Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun, in particular infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. On Earth, sunlight is scattered and filtered through Earth's atmosphere, and is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon. When direct solar radiation is not blocked by clouds, it is experienced as sunshine, a combination of bright light and radiant heat. When blocked by clouds or reflected off other objects, sunlight is diffused. The World Meteorological Organization uses the term "sunshine duration" to mean the cumulative time during which an area receives direct irradiance from the Sun of at least 120 watts per square meter. [1] Other sources indicate an "Average over the entire earth" of "164 Watts per square meter over a 24 hour day". [2]


The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has both positive and negative health effects, as it is both a requisite for vitamin D3 synthesis and a mutagen.

Sunlight takes about 8.3 minutes to reach Earth from the surface of the Sun. A photon starting at the center of the Sun and changing direction every time it encounters a charged particle would take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to get to the surface. [3]

Sunlight is a key factor in photosynthesis, the process used by plants and other autotrophic organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be used to synthesize carbohydrates and to fuel the organisms' activities.


Researchers can measure the intensity of sunlight using a sunshine recorder, pyranometer, or pyrheliometer. To calculate the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, both the eccentricity of Earth's elliptic orbit and the attenuation by Earth's atmosphere have to be taken into account. The extraterrestrial solar illuminance (Eext), corrected for the elliptic orbit by using the day number of the year (dn), is given to a good approximation by [4]

where dn=1 on January 1; dn=32 on February 1; dn=59 on March 1 (except on leap years, where dn=60), etc. In this formula dn–3 is used, because in modern times Earth's perihelion, the closest approach to the Sun and, therefore, the maximum Eext occurs around January 3 each year. The value of 0.033412 is determined knowing that the ratio between the perihelion (0.98328989 AU) squared and the aphelion (1.01671033 AU) squared should be approximately 0.935338.

The solar illuminance constant (Esc), is equal to 128×103  lux. The direct normal illuminance (Edn), corrected for the attenuating effects of the atmosphere is given by:

where c is the atmospheric extinction and m is the relative optical airmass. The atmospheric extinction brings the number of lux down to around 100 000 lux.

The total amount of energy received at ground level from the Sun at the zenith depends on the distance to the Sun and thus on the time of year. It is about 3.3% higher than average in January and 3.3% lower in July (see below). If the extraterrestrial solar radiation is 1367 watts per square meter (the value when the Earth–Sun distance is 1 astronomical unit), then the direct sunlight at Earth's surface when the Sun is at the zenith is about 1050 W/m2, but the total amount (direct and indirect from the atmosphere) hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2. [5] In terms of energy, sunlight at Earth's surface is around 52 to 55 percent infrared (above 700 nm), 42 to 43 percent visible (400 to 700 nm), and 3 to 5 percent ultraviolet (below 400 nm). [6] At the top of the atmosphere, sunlight is about 30% more intense, having about 8% ultraviolet (UV), [7] with most of the extra UV consisting of biologically damaging short-wave ultraviolet. [8]

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93  lumens per watt of radiant flux. Multiplying the figure of 1050 watts per square meter by 93 lumens per watt indicates that bright sunlight provides an illuminance of approximately 98 000 lux (lumens per square meter) on a perpendicular surface at sea level. The illumination of a horizontal surface will be considerably less than this if the Sun is not very high in the sky. Averaged over a day, the highest amount of sunlight on a horizontal surface occurs in January at the South Pole (see insolation).

Dividing the irradiance of 1050 W/m2 by the size of the Sun's disk in steradians gives an average radiance of 15.4 MW per square metre per steradian. (However, the radiance at the center of the sun's disk is somewhat higher than the average over the whole disk due to limb darkening.) Multiplying this by π gives an upper limit to the irradiance which can be focused on a surface using mirrors: 48.5 MW/m2.

Composition and power

Solar irradiance spectrum above atmosphere and at surface. Extreme UV and X-rays are produced (at left of wavelength range shown) but comprise very small amounts of the Sun's total output power. Solar spectrum en.svg
Solar irradiance spectrum above atmosphere and at surface. Extreme UV and X-rays are produced (at left of wavelength range shown) but comprise very small amounts of the Sun's total output power.

The spectrum of the Sun's solar radiation is close to that of a black body [9] [10] with a temperature of about 5,800  K. [11] The Sun emits EM radiation across most of the electromagnetic spectrum. Although the Sun produces gamma rays as a result of the nuclear-fusion process, internal absorption and thermalization convert these super-high-energy photons to lower-energy photons before they reach the Sun's surface and are emitted out into space. As a result, the Sun does not emit gamma rays from this process, but it does emit gamma rays from solar flares. [12] The Sun also emits X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, and even radio waves; [13] the only direct signature of the nuclear process is the emission of neutrinos.

Although the solar corona is a source of extreme ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, these rays make up only a very small amount of the power output of the Sun (see spectrum at right). The spectrum of nearly all solar electromagnetic radiation striking the Earth's atmosphere spans a range of 100  nm to about 1  mm (1,000,000 nm).[ citation needed ] This band of significant radiation power can be divided into five regions in increasing order of wavelengths: [14]

Published tables

Tables of direct solar radiation on various slopes from 0 to 60 degrees north latitude, in calories per square centimetre, issued in 1972 and published by Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Portland, Oregon, USA, appear on the web. [18]

Solar constant

Solar irradiance spectrum at top of atmosphere, on a linear scale and plotted against wavenumber Solar irradiance spectrum 1992.gif
Solar irradiance spectrum at top of atmosphere, on a linear scale and plotted against wavenumber

The solar constant is a measure of flux density, is the amount of incoming solar electromagnetic radiation per unit area that would be incident on a plane perpendicular to the rays, at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) (roughly the mean distance from the Sun to Earth). The "solar constant" includes all types of solar radiation, not just the visible light. Its average value was thought to be approximately 1366 W/m², [19] varying slightly with solar activity, but recent recalibrations of the relevant satellite observations indicate a value closer to 1361 W/m² is more realistic. [20]

Total solar irradiance (TSI) and spectral solar irradiance (SSI) upon Earth

Since 1978 a series of overlapping NASA and ESA satellite experiments have measured total solar irradiance (TSI) – the amount of solar radiation received at the top of Earth's atmosphere – as 1.365 kilo⁠watts per square meter (kW/m²). [19] [21] [22] [23] TSI observations continue with the ACRIMSAT/ACRIM3, SOHO/VIRGO and SORCE/TIM satellite experiments. [24] Observations have revealed variation of TSI on many timescales, including the solar magnetic cycle [25] and many shorter periodic cycles. [26] TSI provides the energy that drives Earth's climate, so continuation of the TSI time-series database is critical to understanding the role of solar variability in climate change.

Since 2003 the SORCE Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) has monitored Spectral solar irradiance (SSI) – the spectral distribution of the TSI. Data indicate that SSI at UV (ultraviolet) wavelength corresponds in a less clear, and probably more complicated fashion, with Earth's climate responses than earlier assumed, fueling broad avenues of new research in "the connection of the Sun and stratosphere, troposphere, biosphere, ocean, and Earth's climate". [27]

Intensity in the Solar System

Sunlight on Mars is dimmer than on Earth. This photo of a Martian sunset was imaged by Mars Pathfinder. Mars sunset PIA00920.jpg
Sunlight on Mars is dimmer than on Earth. This photo of a Martian sunset was imaged by Mars Pathfinder .

Different bodies of the Solar System receive light of an intensity inversely proportional to the square of their distance from Sun.

A table comparing the amount of solar radiation received by each planet in the Solar System at the top of its atmosphere: [28]

Planet or dwarf planet distance (AU)Solar radiation (W/m²)
Perihelion Aphelion maximumminimum
Mercury 0.30750.466714,4466,272
Venus 0.71840.72822,6472,576
Earth 0.98331.0171,4131,321
Mars 1.3821.666715492
Jupiter 4.9505.45855.845.9
Saturn 9.04810.1216.713.4
Uranus 18.3820.084.043.39
Neptune 29.7730.441.541.47
Pluto 29.6648.871.550.57

The actual brightness of sunlight that would be observed at the surface also depends on the presence and composition of an atmosphere. For example, Venus's thick atmosphere reflects more than 60% of the solar light it receives. The actual illumination of the surface is about 14,000 lux, comparable to that on Earth "in the daytime with overcast clouds". [29]

Sunlight on Mars would be more or less like daylight on Earth during a slightly overcast day, and, as can be seen in the pictures taken by the rovers, there is enough diffuse sky radiation that shadows would not seem particularly dark. Thus, it would give perceptions and "feel" very much like Earth daylight. The spectrum on the surface is slightly redder than that on Earth, due to scattering by reddish dust in the Martian atmosphere.

For comparison, sunlight on Saturn is slightly brighter than Earth sunlight at the average sunset or sunrise (see daylight for comparison table). Even on Pluto, the sunlight would still be bright enough to almost match the average living room. To see sunlight as dim as full moonlight on Earth, a distance of about 500 AU (~69  light-hours) is needed; only a handful of objects in the Solar System have been discovered that are known to orbit farther than such a distance, among them 90377 Sedna and (87269) 2000 OO67 .

Surface illumination

Sunlight shining through clouds, giving rise to crepuscular rays Sun over Lake Hawea, New Zealand.jpg
Sunlight shining through clouds, giving rise to crepuscular rays

The spectrum of surface illumination depends upon solar elevation due to atmospheric effects, with the blue spectral component dominating during twilight before and after sunrise and sunset, respectively, and red dominating during sunrise and sunset. These effects are apparent in natural light photography where the principal source of illumination is sunlight as mediated by the atmosphere.

While the color of the sky is usually determined by Rayleigh scattering, an exception occurs at sunset and twilight. "Preferential absorption of sunlight by ozone over long horizon paths gives the zenith sky its blueness when the sun is near the horizon". [30]

See diffuse sky radiation for more details.

Spectral composition of sunlight at Earth's surface

The Sun may be said to illuminate, which is a measure of the light within a specific sensitivity range. Many animals (including humans) have a sensitivity range of approximately 400–700 nm, [31] and given optimal conditions the absorption and scattering by Earth's atmosphere produces illumination that approximates an equal-energy illuminant for most of this range. [32] The useful range for color vision in humans, for example, is approximately 450–650 nm. Aside from effects that arise at sunset and sunrise, the spectral composition changes primarily in respect to how directly sunlight is able to illuminate. When illumination is indirect, Rayleigh scattering in the upper atmosphere will lead blue wavelengths to dominate. Water vapour in the lower atmosphere produces further scattering and ozone, dust and water particles will also absorb selective wavelengths. [33] [34]

Spectrum of the visible wavelengths at approximately sea level; illumination by direct sunlight compared with direct sunlight scattered by cloud cover and with indirect sunlight by varying degrees of cloud cover. The yellow line shows the spectrum of direct illumination under optimal conditions. The other illumination conditions are scaled to show their relation to direct illumination. The units of spectral power are simply raw sensor values (with a linear response at specific wavelengths). Spectrum of Sunlight en.svg
Spectrum of the visible wavelengths at approximately sea level; illumination by direct sunlight compared with direct sunlight scattered by cloud cover and with indirect sunlight by varying degrees of cloud cover. The yellow line shows the spectrum of direct illumination under optimal conditions. The other illumination conditions are scaled to show their relation to direct illumination. The units of spectral power are simply raw sensor values (with a linear response at specific wavelengths).

Variations in solar irradiance

Seasonal and orbital variation

On Earth, the solar radiation varies with the angle of the Sun above the horizon, with longer sunlight duration at high latitudes during summer, varying to no sunlight at all in winter near the pertinent pole. When the direct radiation is not blocked by clouds, it is experienced as sunshine. The warming of the ground (and other objects) depends on the absorption of the electromagnetic radiation in the form of heat.

The amount of radiation intercepted by a planetary body varies inversely with the square of the distance between the star and the planet. Earth's orbit and obliquity change with time (over thousands of years), sometimes forming a nearly perfect circle, and at other times stretching out to an orbital eccentricity of 5% (currently 1.67%). As the orbital eccentricity changes, the average distance from the Sun (the semimajor axis does not significantly vary, and so the total insolation over a year remains almost constant due to Kepler's second law,

where is the "areal velocity" invariant. That is, the integration over the orbital period (also invariant) is a constant.

If we assume the solar radiation power P as a constant over time and the solar irradiation given by the inverse-square law, we obtain also the average insolation as a constant.

But the seasonal and latitudinal distribution and intensity of solar radiation received at Earth's surface does vary. [35] The effect of Sun angle on climate results in the change in solar energy in summer and winter. For example, at latitudes of 65 degrees, this can vary by more than 25% as a result of Earth's orbital variation. Because changes in winter and summer tend to offset, the change in the annual average insolation at any given location is near zero, but the redistribution of energy between summer and winter does strongly affect the intensity of seasonal cycles. Such changes associated with the redistribution of solar energy are considered a likely cause for the coming and going of recent ice ages (see: Milankovitch cycles).

Solar intensity variation

Space-based observations of solar irradiance started in 1978. These measurements show that the solar constant is not constant. It varies on many time scales, including the 11-year sunspot solar cycle. [25] When going further back in time, one has to rely on irradiance reconstructions, using sunspots for the past 400 years or cosmogenic radionuclides for going back 10,000 years. Such reconstructions have been done. [36] [37] [38] [39] These studies show that in addition to the solar irradiance variation with the solar cycle (the (Schwabe) cycle), the solar activity varies with longer cycles, such as the proposed 88 year (Gleisberg cycle), 208 year (DeVries cycle) and 1,000 year (Eddy cycle).

Life on Earth

The existence of nearly all life on Earth is fueled by light from the Sun. Most autotrophs, such as plants, use the energy of sunlight, combined with carbon dioxide and water, to produce simple sugars—a process known as photosynthesis. These sugars are then used as building-blocks and in other synthetic pathways that allow the organism to grow.

Heterotrophs, such as animals, use light from the Sun indirectly by consuming the products of autotrophs, either by consuming autotrophs, by consuming their products, or by consuming other heterotrophs. The sugars and other molecular components produced by the autotrophs are then broken down, releasing stored solar energy, and giving the heterotroph the energy required for survival. This process is known as cellular respiration.

In prehistory, humans began to further extend this process by putting plant and animal materials to other uses. They used animal skins for warmth, for example, or wooden weapons to hunt. These skills allowed humans to harvest more of the sunlight than was possible through glycolysis alone, and human population began to grow.

During the Neolithic Revolution, the domestication of plants and animals further increased human access to solar energy. Fields devoted to crops were enriched by inedible plant matter, providing sugars and nutrients for future harvests. Animals that had previously provided humans with only meat and tools once they were killed were now used for labour throughout their lives, fueled by grasses inedible to humans.

The more recent discoveries of coal, petroleum and natural gas are modern extensions of this trend. These fossil fuels are the remnants of ancient plant and animal matter, formed using energy from sunlight and then trapped within Earth for millions of years. Because the stored energy in these fossil fuels has accumulated over many millions of years, they have allowed modern humans to massively increase the production and consumption of primary energy. As the amount of fossil fuel is large but finite, this cannot continue indefinitely, and various theories exist as to what will follow this stage of human civilization (e.g., alternative fuels, Malthusian catastrophe, new urbanism, peak oil).

Cultural aspects

Eduard Manet: Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (1862-63) Edouard Manet - Luncheon on the Grass - Google Art Project.jpg
Eduard Manet: Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862-63)

The effect of sunlight is relevant to painting, evidenced for instance in works of Eduard Manet and Claude Monet on outdoor scenes and landscapes.

Teli verofeny ("Winter Sunshine") by Laszlo Mednyanszky, early 20th century Winter Sunshine.jpg
Téli verőfény ("Winter Sunshine") by László Mednyánszky, early 20th century

Many people find direct sunlight to be too bright for comfort, especially when reading from white paper upon which the sunlight is directly shining. Indeed, looking directly at the Sun can cause long-term vision damage. To compensate for the brightness of sunlight, many people wear sunglasses. Cars, many helmets and caps are equipped with visors to block the Sun from direct vision when the Sun is at a low angle. Sunshine is often blocked from entering buildings through the use of walls, window blinds, awnings, shutters, curtains, or nearby shade trees. Sunshine exposure is needed biologically for the creation of Vitamin D in the skin, a vital compound needed to make strong bone and muscle in the body.

In colder countries, many people prefer sunnier days and often avoid the shade. In hotter countries, the converse is true; during the midday hours, many people prefer to stay inside to remain cool. If they do go outside, they seek shade that may be provided by trees, parasols, and so on.

In many world religions, such as Hinduism, the Sun is considered to be a god, as it is the source of life and energy on Earth. It also formed the basis for religion in Ancient Egypt.


Sunbathing is a popular leisure activity in which a person sits or lies in direct sunshine. People often sunbathe in comfortable places where there is ample sunlight. Some common places for sunbathing include beaches, open air swimming pools, parks, gardens, and sidewalk cafes. Sunbathers typically wear limited amounts of clothing or some simply go nude. For some, an alternative to sunbathing is the use of a sunbed that generates ultraviolet light and can be used indoors regardless of weather conditions. Tanning beds have been banned in a number of states in the world.

For many people with light skin, one purpose for sunbathing is to darken one's skin color (get a sun tan), as this is considered in some cultures to be attractive, associated with outdoor activity, vacations/holidays, and health. Some people prefer naked sunbathing so that an "all-over" or "even" tan can be obtained, sometimes as part of a specific lifestyle.

Controlled heliotherapy, or sunbathing, has been used as a treatment for psoriasis and other maladies.

Skin tanning is achieved by an increase in the dark pigment inside skin cells called melanocytes, and is an automatic response mechanism of the body to sufficient exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the Sun or from artificial sunlamps. Thus, the tan gradually disappears with time, when one is no longer exposed to these sources.

Effects on human health

The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has both positive and negative health effects, as it is both a principal source of vitamin D3 and a mutagen. [40] A dietary supplement can supply vitamin D without this mutagenic effect, [41] but bypasses natural mechanisms that would prevent overdoses of vitamin D generated internally from sunlight. Vitamin D has a wide range of positive health effects, which include strengthening bones [42] and possibly inhibiting the growth of some cancers. [43] [44] Sun exposure has also been associated with the timing of melatonin synthesis, maintenance of normal circadian rhythms, and reduced risk of seasonal affective disorder. [45]

Long-term sunlight exposure is known to be associated with the development of skin cancer, skin aging, immune suppression, and eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. [46] Short-term overexposure is the cause of sunburn, snow blindness, and solar retinopathy.

UV rays, and therefore sunlight and sunlamps, are the only listed carcinogens that are known to have health benefits, [47] and a number of public health organizations state that there needs to be a balance between the risks of having too much sunlight or too little. [48] There is a general consensus that sunburn should always be avoided.

Epidemiological data shows that people who have more exposure to sunlight have less high blood pressure and cardiovascular-related mortality. While sunlight (and its UV rays) are a risk factor for skin cancer, "sun avoidance may carry more of a cost than benefit for over-all good health." [49] A study found that there is no evidence that UV reduces lifespan in contrast to other risk factors like smoking, alcohol and high blood pressure. [49]

Effect on plant genomes

Elevated solar UV-B doses increase the frequency of DNA recombination in Arabidopsis thaliana and tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ) plants. [50] These increases are accompanied by strong induction of an enzyme with a key role in recombinational repair of DNA damage. Thus the level of terrestrial solar UV-B radiation likely affects genome stability in plants.

See also

Related Research Articles

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies.

Ozone layer Region of Earths stratosphere that absorbs most of the Suns ultraviolet radiation

The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. It contains high concentration of ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere. The ozone layer contains less than 10 parts per million of ozone, while the average ozone concentration in Earth's atmosphere as a whole is about 0.3 parts per million. The ozone layer is mainly found in the lower portion of the stratosphere, from approximately 15 to 35 kilometers (9.3 to 21.7 mi) above Earth, although its thickness varies seasonally and geographically.

Ultraviolet Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays

Ultraviolet (UV) is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, shorter than that of visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight, and constitutes about 10% of the total electromagnetic radiation output from the Sun. It is also produced by electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet is not considered an ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Consequently, the chemical and biological effects of UV are greater than simple heating effects, and many practical applications of UV radiation derive from its interactions with organic molecules.

Solar cycle periodic change in the Suns activity

The solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle is a nearly periodic 11-year change in the Sun's activity measured in terms of variations in the number of observed sunspots on the solar surface. Sunspots have been observed since the early 17th century and the sunspot time series is the longest, continuously observed (recorded) time series of any natural phenomena. Accompanying the 11 year quasi-periodicity in sunspots, the large-scale dipolar (north-south) magnetic field component of the Sun also flips every 11 years, however, the peak in the dipolar field lags the peak in the sunspot number, with the former occurring at the minimum between two cycles. Levels of solar radiation and ejection of solar material, the number and size of sunspots, solar flares, and coronal loops all exhibit a synchronized fluctuation, from active to quiet to active again, with a period of 11 years. This cycle has been observed for centuries by changes in the Sun's appearance and by terrestrial phenomena such as auroras. Solar activity, driven both by the sunspot cycle and transient aperiodic processes govern the environment of the Solar System planets by creating space weather and impact space- and ground-based technologies as well as the Earth's atmosphere and also possibly climate fluctuations on scales of centuries and longer.

Solar constant Intensity of sunlight

The solar constant (GSC) is a flux density measuring mean solar electromagnetic radiation per unit area. It is measured on a surface perpendicular to the rays, one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun.

Sun tanning The darkening of skin in response to ultraviolet light

Sun tanning or simply tanning is the process whereby skin color is darkened or tanned. It is most often a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or from artificial sources, such as a tanning lamp found in indoor tanning beds. People who deliberately tan their skin by exposure to the sun engage in a passive recreational activity of sun bathing. Some people use chemical products which can produce a tanning effect without exposure to ultraviolet radiation, known as sunless tanning.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite NASA-operated orbital obserbatory

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was a NASA-operated orbital observatory whose mission was to study the Earth's atmosphere, particularly the protective ozone layer. The 5,900-kilogram (13,000 lb) satellite was deployed from Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-48 mission on 15 September 1991. It entered Earth orbit at an operational altitude of 600 kilometers (370 mi), with an orbital inclination of 57 degrees.

Solar irradiance power per unit area received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation

Solar irradiance is the power per unit area, received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation as reported in the wavelength range of the measuring instrument. Solar irradiance is often integrated over a given time period in order to report the radiant energy emitted into the surrounding environment, during that time period. This integrated solar irradiance is called solar irradiation, solar exposure, solar insolation, or insolation.

The ultraviolet index, or UV Index, is an international standard measurement of the strength of sunburn-producing ultraviolet (UV) radiation at a particular place and time. The scale was developed by Canadian scientists in 1992, and then adopted and standardized by the UN's World Health Organization and World Meteorological Organization in 1994. It is primarily used in daily forecasts aimed at the general public, and is increasingly available as an hourly forecast as well.

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment NASA space observatory

The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) was a NASA-sponsored satellite mission that measured incoming X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation. These measurements specifically addressed long-term climate change, natural variability, atmospheric ozone, and UV-B radiation, enhancing climate prediction. These measurements are critical to studies of the Sun, its effect on our Earth system, and its influence on humankind. SORCE was launched on 25 January 2003 on a Pegasus XL launch vehicle to provide NASA's Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) with precise measurements of solar radiation.

Ultraviolet photography photographic process

Ultraviolet photography is a photographic process of recording images by using light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum only. Images taken with ultraviolet light serve a number of scientific, medical or artistic purposes. Images may reveal deterioration of art works or structures not apparent under visible light. Diagnostic medical images may be used to detect certain skin disorders or as evidence of injury. Some animals, particularly insects, use ultraviolet wavelengths for vision; ultraviolet photography can help investigate the markings of plants that attract insects, while invisible to the unaided human eye. Ultraviolet photography of archaeological sites may reveal artifacts or traffic patterns not otherwise visible.

The air mass coefficient defines the direct optical path length through the Earth's atmosphere, expressed as a ratio relative to the path length vertically upwards, i.e. at the zenith. The air mass coefficient can be used to help characterize the solar spectrum after solar radiation has traveled through the atmosphere. The air mass coefficient is commonly used to characterize the performance of solar cells under standardized conditions, and is often referred to using the syntax "AM" followed by a number. "AM1.5" is almost universal when characterizing terrestrial power-generating panels.


The Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Radiometer, or SBUV/2, is a series of operational remote sensors on NOAA weather satellites in Sun-synchronous orbits which have been providing global measurements of stratospheric total ozone, as well as ozone profiles, since March 1985. The SBUV/2 instruments were developed from the SBUV experiment flown on the Nimbus-7 spacecraft which improved on the design of the original BUV instrument on Nimbus-4. These are nadir viewing radiometric instruments operating at mid to near UV wavelengths. SBUV/2 data sets overlap with data from SBUV and TOMS instruments on the Nimbus-7 spacecraft. These extensive data sets measure the density and vertical distribution of ozone in the Earth's atmosphere from six to 30 miles.

Solar simulator

A solar simulator is a device that provides illumination approximating natural sunlight. The purpose of the solar simulator is to provide a controllable indoor test facility under laboratory conditions, used for the testing of solar cells, sun screen, plastics, and other materials and devices.

Health effects of sunlight exposure

The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has both positive and negative health effects, as it is both a principal source of vitamin D3 and a mutagen. A dietary supplement can supply vitamin D without this mutagenic effect. Vitamin D has been suggested as having a wide range of positive health effects, which include strengthening bones and possibly inhibiting the growth of some cancers. UV exposure also has positive effects for endorphin levels, and possibly for protection against multiple sclerosis. Visible sunlight to the eyes gives health benefits through its association with the timing of melatonin synthesis, maintenance of normal and robust circadian rhythms, and reduced risk of seasonal affective disorder.

Non-ionizing radiation electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules

Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. In contrast, ionizing radiation has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than non-ionizing radiation, and can be a serious health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures, which in general are not required with non-ionizing radiation.

Simple Model of the Atmospheric Radiative Transfer of Sunshine

The Simple Model of the Atmospheric Radiative Transfer of Sunshine, or SMARTS for short, is a computer program designed to evaluate the surface solar irradiance components in the shortwave spectrum under cloudless conditions. The program, written in FORTRAN, relies on simplifications of the equation of radiative transfer to allow extremely fast calculations of the surface irradiance. The irradiance components can be incident on a horizontal, a fixed-tilt or a 2-axis tracking surface. SMARTS can be used for example to evaluate the energy production of solar panels under variable atmospheric conditions. Many other applications are possible.

Solar phenomena Natural phenomena occurring within the magnetically heated outer atmospheres in the Sun

Solar phenomena are the natural phenomena occurring within the magnetically heated outer atmospheres in the Sun. These phenomena take many forms, including solar wind, radio wave flux, energy bursts such as solar flares, coronal mass ejection or solar eruptions, coronal heating and sunspots.

Solar activity and climate

Patterns of solar irradiance and solar variation has been a main driver of climate change over the millennia to gigayears of the geologic time scale, but its role in the recent warming has been found to be insignificant.


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  2. "Basics of Solar". Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  3. "The 8-minute travel time to Earth by sunlight hides a thousand-year journey that actually began in the core". NASA. Archived from the original on 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  4. C. KANDILLI & K. ULGEN. "Solar Illumination and Estimating Daylight Availability of Global Solar Irradiance". Energy Sources.
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  6. Calculated from data in "Reference Solar Spectral Irradiance: Air Mass 1.5". National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved 2009-11-12. The first of each set of two figures is for total solar radiation reaching a panel aimed at the Sun (which is 42° above the horizon), whereas the second figure of each pair is the "direct plus circumsolar" radiation (circumsolar meaning coming from the part of the sky within a couple degrees of the Sun). The totals, from 280 to 4000 nm, are 1000.4 and 900.1 W/m2 respectively. It would be good to have more direct figures from a good source, rather than summing thousands of numbers in a database.
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Further reading