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scattering: light and sunsets/sunrises

Image taken by me.

This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise (pictured) and got to pondering how the colors came to be. Apparently, they result from a process called scattering, a process by which small particles in the the atmosphere change the direction of light rays, causing them to scatter.

Although scattering affects the color of light emitted in the sky, the details are determined by the wavelength of the light and size of the particle in that the long-wavelength red are scattered by molecules in the air much less than other colors of the spectrum. 

We see sunsets and sunrises as a result of the sun being low on the horizon where sunlight passes through more air at those times of day.

The blue light seen throughout the day is scattered away from our eyes, leaving the more orange and red light to pass through.


One thought on “scattering: light and sunsets/sunrises

  1. I agree! Nashville has the prettiest sunsets of any place I have lived and that includes growing up on the water in Florida. The downside to our awesome sunsets is that it means we do have a lot of particles trapped in the “bowl” in which Nashville sits which is bad for allergy sufferers not to mention observers using a telescope!


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