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Sunlight shining through clouds, giving rise to crepuscular rays Sunshine at Dunstanburgh.JPG
Sunlight shining through clouds, giving rise to crepuscular rays
Photograph called Sunlight (1930s) 'Sunlight' - RAHS-Osborne Collection c. 1930s (15775731511).jpg
Photograph called Sunlight (1930s)

Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun, in particular infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through Earth's atmosphere, and is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon. When the direct solar radiation is not blocked by clouds, it is experienced as sunshine, a combination of bright light and radiant heat. When it is blocked by clouds or reflects off other objects, it is experienced as diffused light. 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]

Electromagnetic radiation form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, which exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space

In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Sun Star at the centre of the Solar System

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.

Infrared electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light

Infrared radiation (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore generally invisible to the human eye, although IR at wavelengths up to 1050 nanometers (nm)s from specially pulsed lasers can be seen by humans under certain conditions. IR wavelengths extend from the nominal red edge of the visible spectrum at 700 nanometers, to 1 millimeter (300 GHz). Most of the thermal radiation emitted by objects near room temperature is infrared. As with all EMR, IR carries radiant energy and behaves both like a wave and like its quantum particle, the photon.


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.

Mutagen Chemical agents that increase the rate of genetic mutation by interfering with the function of nucleic acids. A clastogen is a specific mutagen that causes breaks in chromosomes

In genetics, a mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level. As many mutations can cause cancer, mutagens are therefore also likely to be carcinogens, although not always necessarily so. All mutagens have characteristic mutational signatures with some chemicals becoming mutagenic through cellular processes. Not all mutations are caused by mutagens: so-called "spontaneous mutations" occur due to spontaneous hydrolysis, errors in DNA replication, repair and recombination.

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]

In physics, a charged particle is a particle with an electric charge. It may be an ion, such as a molecule or atom with a surplus or deficit of electrons relative to protons. It can also be an electron or a proton, or another elementary particle, which are all believed to have the same charge. Another charged particle may be an atomic nucleus devoid of electrons, such as an alpha particle.

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.

Photosynthesis Biological process to convert light into chemical energy

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities. This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water – hence the name photosynthesis, from the Greek φῶς, phōs, "light", and σύνθεσις, synthesis, "putting together". In most cases, oxygen is also released as a waste product. Most plants, most algae, and cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis; such organisms are called photoautotrophs. Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere, and supplies all of the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life on Earth.

Autotroph Any organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple substances present in its surroundings, generally using energy from light or inorganic chemical reactions

An autotroph or primary producer, is an organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple substances present in its surroundings, generally using energy from light (photosynthesis) or inorganic chemical reactions (chemosynthesis). They are the producers in a food chain, such as plants on land or algae in water. They do not need a living source of energy or organic carbon. Autotrophs can reduce carbon dioxide to make organic compounds for biosynthesis and also create a store of chemical energy. Most autotrophs use water as the reducing agent, but some can use other hydrogen compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. Some autotrophs, such as green plants and algae, are phototrophs, meaning that they convert electromagnetic energy from sunlight into chemical energy in the form of reduced carbon.

Chemical energy is the potential of a chemical substance to undergo a transformation through a chemical reaction to transform other chemical substances. Examples include batteries, food, gasoline, and etc. Breaking or making of chemical bonds involves energy, which may be either absorbed or evolved from a chemical system.


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]

Sunshine recorder meteorological instrumentation

A sunshine recorder is a device that records the amount of sunshine at a given location or region at any time. The results provide information about the weather and climate as well as the temperature of a geographical area. This information is useful in meteorology, science, agriculture, tourism, and other fields. It has also been called a heliograph.

Pyranometer meteorological instrumentation

A pyranometer is a type of actinometer used for measuring solar irradiance on a planar surface and it is designed to measure the solar radiation flux density (W/m2) from the hemisphere above within a wavelength range 0.3 μm to 3 μm. The name pyranometer stems from the Greek words πῦρ (pyr), meaning "fire", and ἄνω (ano), meaning "above, sky".

Pyrheliometer meteorological instrumentation

A pyrheliometer is an instrument for measurement of direct beam solar irradiance. Sunlight enters the instrument through a window and is directed onto a thermopile which converts heat to an electrical signal that can be recorded. The signal voltage is converted via a formula to measure watts per square metre. It is used with a solar tracking system to keep the instrument aimed at the sun. A pyrheliometer is often used in the same setup with a pyranometer.

where dn=1 on January 1st; dn=32 on February 1st; 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 metre 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 centre 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. [17]

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, 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, [18] varying slightly with solar activity, but recent recalibrations of the relevant satellite observations indicate a value closer to 1361 W/m² is more realistic. [19]

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

Total solar irradiance (TSI) – the amount of solar radiation received at the top of Earth's atmosphere – has been measured since 1978 by a series of overlapping NASA and ESA satellite experiments to be 1.365 kilo⁠watts per square meter (kW/m²). [18] [20] [21] [22] TSI observations are continuing today with the ACRIMSAT/ACRIM3, SOHO/VIRGO and SORCE/TIM satellite experiments. [23] Variation of TSI has been discovered on many timescales including the solar magnetic cycle [24] and many shorter periodic cycles. [25] 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.

Spectral solar irradiance (SSI) – the spectral distribution of the TSI – has been monitored since 2003 by the SORCE Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM). It has been found 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”. [26]

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 rough table comparing the amount of solar radiation received by each planet in the Solar System follows (from data in ):

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 depends also 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". [27]

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; there are only a handful of objects in the Solar System known to orbit farther than such a distance, among them 90377 Sedna and (87269) 2000 OO67 .

Surface illumination

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". [28]

See diffuse sky radiation for more details.

Spectral composition of sunlight at Earth's surface

The Sun's electromagnetic radiation which is received at the Earth's surface is predominantly light that falls within the range of wavelengths to which the visual systems of the animals that inhabit Earth's surface are sensitive. The Sun may therefore 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, [29] 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. [30] 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. [31] [32]

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. [33] 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. [24] 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. [34] [35] [36] [37] These studies show that in addition to the solar irradiance variation with the solar cycle (the (Schwabe) cycle), the solar activitiy 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 Edouard Manet - Luncheon on the Grass - Google Art Project.jpg
Eduard Manet: Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

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 Winter Sunshine.jpg
Téli verőfény ("Winter Sunshine") by László Mednyánszky

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. [38] A dietary supplement can supply vitamin D without this mutagenic effect, [39] 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 [40] and possibly inhibiting the growth of some cancers. [41] [42] Sun exposure has also been associated with the timing of melatonin synthesis, maintenance of normal circadian rhythms, and reduced risk of seasonal affective disorder. [43]

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. [44] 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, [45] 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. [46] There is a general consensus that sunburn should always be avoided.

Epidemiological data shows that people who have more exposure to the sun 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." [47] 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. [47]

Effect on plant genomes

Elevated solar UV-B doses increase the frequency of DNA recombination in Arabidopsis thaliana and tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ) plants. [48] 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

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Albedo is the measure of the diffuse reflection of solar radiation out of the total solar radiation received by an astronomical body. It is dimensionless and measured on a scale from 0 to 1.

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

Ozone layer The region of Earths stratosphere that absorbs most of the Suns UV 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) designates a band of the electromagnetic spectrum 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 contributes about 10% of the total light output of 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 the nearly periodic 11-year change in the Sun's activity and appearance.

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.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite

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 mirror

A solar mirror contains a substrate with a reflective layer for reflecting the solar energy, and in most cases an interference layer. This may be a planar mirror or parabolic arrays of solar mirrors used to achieve a substantially concentrated reflection factor for solar energy systems.

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

Solar irradiance (SI) is the power per unit area received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range of the measuring instrument. The solar irradiance integrated over time is called solar irradiation, insolation, or solar exposure. However, insolation is often used interchangeably with irradiance in practice.

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, 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 space observatory

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

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 medial 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.

Artificial sunlight

Artificial sunlight is the use of a light source to simulate sunlight where the unique characteristics of sunlight are needed, but where sufficient natural sunlight is not available or is not feasible. A light source used to simulate sunlight is a solar simulator.

ACRIMSAT dedicated satellite and instrument

The Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite, or ACRIMSAT is a defunct satellite and instrument that was one of the 21 observational components of NASA's Earth Observing System program. The instrument followed upon the ACRIM1 and ACRIM2 instruments that were also launched on multi-instrument satellite platforms. ACRIMSAT was launched on 20 December 1999 from Vandenberg Air Force Base as the secondary payload on the Taurus rocket that launched KOMPSAT. It was placed into a high inclination, 700 km. sun-synchronous orbit from which the ACRIM3 instrument monitored total solar irradiance (TSI). Contact with the satellite was lost on 14 December 2013.

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.

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. Ionizing radiation which has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than nonionizing radiation, has many uses but can be a 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 nonionizing 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.


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Further reading