The photosphere does not rotate in one piece, lower latitudes outrunning higher.
In the instants when a sharp image of the photosphere is seen or photographed, it shows a granulated appearance like white flakes strewed fairly evenly upon a dark ground.
Most of the metallic vapours that produce this lie too close to the photosphere for the separation to be made except during eclipses, when a flash spectrum of bright lines shines out for, say, five seconds after the continuous spectrum has disappeared, and again before it reappears (see Eclipse).
Dyson has measured some eight hundred lines in the lower chromosphere and identified them with emission spectra of the following elements: hydrogen, helium, carbon with the cyanogen band, sodium, magnesium, aluminium, silicon, calcium, scandium, titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, iron, zinc, strontium, yttrium, zirconium, barium, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, ytterbium, lead, europium, besides a few doubtful identifications; it is a curious fact that the agreement is with the spark spectra of these elements, where the photosphere shows exclusively or more definitely the arc lines, which are generally attributed to a lower temperature.
Some lines of certain elements are always seen fainter or thinner than on the photosphere, or even wholly obliterated; others sometimes show the same features, but not always; other lines of the same elements, perhaps originating at a level above the spot, are not affected; there are also bright streaks where even the general absorption of the spot is absent, and sometimes such a bright line will correspond to a dark line on the photosphere; most generally the lines are intensified, generally in breadth, sometimes in darkness, sometimes in both together, sometimes in one at the expense of the other; certain lines not seen in the photosphere show only across the umbra, others cross umbra and penumbra, others reach a short distance over the photosphere.
In the higher chromosphere on occasions metallic gases are carried up to such a level that without an eclipse a bright line spectrum of many elements may be seen, but it is always possible to see those of hydrogen and helium, and by opening the slit of the spectroscope so as to weaken still further the continuous spectrum from the photosphere (now a mere reflection) the actual forms of the gaseous structures called prominences round the sun's rim may be seen.
The temperature of the photosphere at this stage has reached a maximum, and the star is new of the helium type.
Enclosing the photosphere is a truly gaseous envelope which is called the chromosphere, and which shows a spectrum of bright lines when we can isolate its emission from that of the photosphere.
Then follows a gradual absorption of first the helium and then the hydrogen, the photosphere grows continually cooler, and the star passes successively through the stages exemplified by Sirius, Procyon, the Sun, Arcturus and Antares.
Its absorptive effects upon the radiations of the inner photosphere can be readily traced progressively from the centre to the rim of the sun's disk, and it has been measured as a whole by Langley, W.