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Clear day blues

posted on
May 6th, 2014
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ZWEI
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BY ZWEI, CLOSE-UP
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Why (on a clear day) is the sky blue?

The sky is blue because of a process called Rayleigh scattering.
Light arriving from the sun hits the molecules in the air and is scattered in all directions. The amount of scattering depends dramatically on the frequency, that is, the colour of the light. Blue light, which has a high frequency, is scattered ten times more than red light, which has a lower frequency. So the ‘background’ scattered light we see in the sky is blue.
This same process also explains the beautiful red colours at sunset. When the sun is low on the horizon, its light has to pass through a large amount of atmosphere on its way to us. During the trip, blue light is scattered away, but red light, which is less susceptible to scattering, can continue on its direct path to our eyes.

[New Scientist — Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze? And 114 other questions — Mick O’Hare]

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