A chromosphere ("sphere of color") is a layer of a star's atmosphere. Most often it refers to the Sun, but not exclusively.

The chromosphere emits electromagnetic radiation in the Hα spectral line, allowing for it to be viewed using special filters.

The Sun's chromosphere is the second of the three main layers in the solar atmosphere and is located above the photosphere and below the solar transition region and corona. It is roughly 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers (1,900 to 3,100 miles) in height, or slightly more than 1% of the Sun's radius at maximum thickness, and possesses a homogeneous layer in the region directly above the photosphere. A forest of hair-like jets of plasma, or spicules, rise from this homogeneous region through the choromosphere, extending up to 10,000 km (6,200 mi) into the corona above.

The chromosphere has a characteristic red color due to electromagnetic emissions in the Hα spectral line. Information about the chromosphere is primarily obtained by analysis of its emitted electromagnetic radiation.[1]

Chromospheres have also been observed on stars other than the Sun.[2] On large stars, chromospheres sometimes make up a significant proportion of the entire star. For example, the chromosphere of supergiant star Antares has been found to be about 2.5 times larger in thickness than the star's radius.[3]

Physical propertiesEdit

The red color of the chromosphere could be seen during the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999.

The density of the chromosphere decreases with distance from the center of the Sun. This decreases exponentially from 1017 particles per cubic centimeter, or approximately 2×10−4 kg/m3 to under 1.6×10−11 kg/m3 at the outer boundary.[4] The temperature decreases from the inner boundary at about 6,000 K[5] to a minimum of approximately 3,800 K,[6] before increasing to upwards of 35,000 K[5] at the outer boundary with the transition layer of the corona (see Stellar corona § Coronal heating problem).

The density of the chromosphere is only 10−4 times that of the underlying photosphere and 10−8 times that of the atmosphere of Earth at sea level. This makes the chromosphere normally invisible and it can be seen only during a total eclipse, where its reddish color is revealed. The color hues are anywhere between pink and red.[7] Without special equipment, the chromosphere cannot normally be seen due to the overwhelming brightness of the photosphere.

The chromosphere's spectrum is dominated by emission lines.[citation needed] In particular, one of its strongest lines is the Hα at a wavelength of 656.3 nm; this line is emitted by a hydrogen atom whenever its electron makes a transition from the n=3 to the n=2 energy level. A wavelength of 656.3 nm is in the red part of the spectrum, which causes the chromosphere to have a characteristic reddish color.

Chromospheric phenomenaEdit

High-resolution observations of the solar chromosphere show hair-like spicules.

Many different phenomena can be observed in chromospheres.


Particularly bright regions in stellar chromospheres, referred to as plage, are often associated with magnetic activity.[8]


The most commonly identified feature in the solar chromosphere are spicules. Spicules rise to the top of the chromosphere and then sink back down again over the course of about 10 minutes.[9]


Periodic oscillations in the solar chromosphere have been found since the first observations with the instrument SUMER on board SOHO with a frequency from 3 mHz to 10 mHz, corresponding to a characteristic periodic time of three minutes.[10] Oscillations of the radial component of the plasma velocity are typical of the high chromosphere. Now we know that the photospheric granulation pattern has usually no oscillations above 20 mHz while higher frequency waves (100 mHz or a 10 µs period) were detected in the solar atmosphere (at temperatures typical of the transition region and corona) by TRACE.[11]

Chromospheric loopsEdit

Cool loops can be seen at the border of the solar disk in the chromosphere. They are different from prominences because they look as concentric arches with maximum temperature of the order 0.1 MK (too low to be considered coronal features). These cool loops show an intense variability: they appear and disappear in some UV lines in a time less than an hour, or they rapidly expand in 10–20 minutes. Foukal [12] studied these cool loops in detail from the observations taken with the EUV spectrometer on Skylab in 1976. Otherwise, when the plasma temperature of these loops becomes coronal (above 1 MK), these features appear more stable and evolve on longer times.

Chromospheric networkEdit

Images taken in typical chromospheric lines show the presence of brighter cells, usually referred to as the network, while the surrounding darker regions are named internetwork. They look similar to granules commonly observed on the photosphere due to the heat convection.

Stellar chromospheresEdit

Chromospheres are present on almost all luminous stars other than white dwarfs. They are most prominent and magnetically active on lower-main sequence stars, on brown dwarfs of F and later spectral types, and on giant and subgiant stars.[8]

A spectroscopic measure of chromospheric activity on other stars is the Mount Wilson S-index.[13][14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jess, D.B; Morton, RJ; Verth, G; Fedun, V; Grant, S.T.D; Gigiozis, I. (July 2015). "Multiwavelength Studies of MHD Waves in the Solar Chromosphere". Space Science Reviews. 190 (1–4): 103–161. arXiv:1503.01769. Bibcode:2015SSRv..190..103J. doi:10.1007/s11214-015-0141-3.
  2. ^ "The Chromosphere". Archived from the original on 2014-04-04. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  3. ^ "Supergiant Atmosphere of Antares Revealed by Radio Telescopes". National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  4. ^ Kontar, E. P.; Hannah, I. G.; Mackinnon, A. L. (2008), "Chromospheric magnetic field and density structure measurements using hard X-rays in a flaring coronal loop", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 489 (3): L57, arXiv:0808.3334, Bibcode:2008A&A...489L..57K, doi:10.1051/0004-6361:200810719
  5. ^ a b "SP-402 A New Sun: The Solar Results From Skylab". Archived from the original on 2004-11-18.
  6. ^ Avrett, E. H. (2003), "The Solar Temperature Minimum and Chromosphere", ASP Conference Series, 286: 419, Bibcode:2003ASPC..286..419A, ISBN 978-1-58381-129-0
  7. ^ Freedman, R. A.; Kaufmann III, W. J. (2008). Universe. New York, USA: W. H. Freeman and Co. p. 762. ISBN 978-0-7167-8584-2.
  8. ^ a b de Grijs, Richard; Kamath, Devika (15 November 2021). "Stellar Chromospheric Variability". Universe. 7 (11): 440. doi:10.3390/universe7110440. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  9. ^ Wilkinson, John (2012). New eyes on the sun : a guide to satellite images and amateur observation. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 978-3-642-22839-1. OCLC 773089685.
  10. ^ Carlsson, M.; Judge, P.; Wilhelm, K. (1997). "SUMER Observations Confirm the Dynamic Nature of the Quiet Solar Outer Atmosphere: The Internetwork Chromosphere". The Astrophysical Journal. 486 (1): L63. arXiv:astro-ph/9706226. Bibcode:1997ApJ...486L..63C. doi:10.1086/310836.
  11. ^ De Forest, C.E. (2004). "High-Frequency Waves Detected in the Solar Atmosphere". The Astrophysical Journal. 617 (1): L89. Bibcode:2004ApJ...617L..89D. doi:10.1086/427181.
  12. ^ Foukal, P.V. (1976). "The pressure and energy balance of the cool corona over sunspots". The Astrophysical Journal. 210: 575. Bibcode:1976ApJ...210..575F. doi:10.1086/154862.
  13. ^ Observational evidence for enhanced magnetic activity of superflare stars
  14. ^ A small survey of the magnetic fields of planet-hosting stars gives "Wright J. T., Marcy G. W., Butler R. P., Vogt S. S., 2004, ApJS, 152, 261" as a ref for s-index.

External linksEdit

  • Animated explanation of the Chromosphere (and Transition Region) Archived 2015-11-16 at the Wayback Machine (University of South Wales).
  • Animated explanation of the temperature of the Chromosphere (and Transition Region)[permanent dead link] (University of South Wales).