Children often wonder why the sky is blue, which has perplexed adults, too. This question can be answered using three facts relating to physics, physiology and chemistry.
As sunlight travels through Earth’s atmosphere, shorter wavelengths like violet and blue light scatter more effectively than longer ones (like red). This phenomenon gives sky its distinctive blue hue.
The color of the sky is determined primarily by how sunlight is scattered by atmospheric molecules; this process, known as Rayleigh scattering, disperses light in such a way that blue wavelengths appear much brighter than red ones based on physical derivations that states intensity is directly proportional to frequency squared (4x) for any given hue (where “frequency” refers to repetition rate within one second).
Sunlight travels through all of the atmosphere before it reaches our eyes, where it interacts with small particles found within it and gets scattered by them. These smaller-than-wavelength particles tend to scatter blue light more effectively than red light – this explains why skies appear bluer.
Note that Rayleigh scattering isn’t the only form of sunlight scattering; light can also be scattered by chemicals, gases and airborne dust particles that make up our atmosphere – however these other types are usually much weaker than its Rayleigh effect.
Light enters our atmosphere as white light, which contains all of the colors visible to our eyes. Once it hits molecules of air in the atmosphere, they scatter all wavelengths of light in all directions, dispersing blue and violet waves to appear as sky blue hues while remaining colors mix into one another for an overall white appearance.
At daybreak and sunset, the sky appears as blue due to light scattered from the sun through atmospheric layers; when low in the sky however, red light must travel further before its wavelength can be scattered away and so blue light dissipates more efficiently than red. This gives sunrise and sunset their distinctive orange tint.
As an easy way to experience Rayleigh Scattering for yourself, use a flashlight beam and shine it through a tank of water that contains soap or milk additives – the light will appear slightly blue as a result, while when switching over to one without added chemicals (without soap or milk) the color changes dramatically: red is much more predominant due to atmosphere composition impacting Rayleigh Scattering effectiveness.
Dust & Water Droplets
Earth’s atmosphere contains more than air molecules; it also features dust particles and water droplets. Large particles, relative to visible light wavelengths, reflect off these large particles when they pass through our atmosphere and our eyes pick them up as reflecting or scattered light waves; this causes it to have a blue-ish tint as it passes through our atmosphere; however, as our eyes are more sensitive to longer wavelengths like blue and green than shorter ones such as red or violet light wavelengths our atmosphere does not completely deprive sunlight of its hue.
The color of the sky also changes with pollution or humidity levels. When there’s too much dust in the air, its presence causes light scattering that alters its hue to take on an yellowish tint, while when temperatures are hot and dry skies appear clearer with lighter blue shades than they do during rain or humidity.
Due to atmospheric water vapor absorption and scattering, there is also a natural bluish hue to the sky on Mars, as this contributes to its butterscotch tinted sky. When there is more short wavelength blue light absorbed than red and orange wavelengths emitted by stars, resulting in this butterscotch hue of light in its path across space.
Sunrise and sunset see the Sun moving closer to our atmosphere than during other times, meaning more direct sunlight passes through and this allows air molecules to scatter violet and blue wavelengths more efficiently than red and pink ones – so direct sunlight reaching our eyes contains mostly red-orange wavelengths, with less blue ones present.
Clouds form when atmospheric water vapor condenses into tiny droplets of liquid that become enclosed by dust particles and float high into the sky, giving it its characteristic hazy look and giving way to dew drops that later land as dewdrops on surfaces near them.
When light enters your eye, its first point of contact is with a transparent dome known as the cornea (say: KOR-nee-uh). This transparent dome acts like glass to help focus light as it comes through your pupils. Next comes vitreous (say: VIRE-tious), a dense gel-like substance which fills most of your eyeball to maintain its round shape and help maintain it over time. Finally, light travels outward until reaching the outer layer known as sclera (say: SKLE-ruh) which looks white in colour.
Your eyes start working their magic when light strikes the retina and creates an image on it that travels directly to the brain. There are over one million nerve cells in your retina which react to this image by turning it into electrical signals; your brain then interprets these signals and tells you which colors you are seeing in front of you.
Your eyes can detect wavelengths across a broad spectrum, but they are drawn most strongly to blue and violet tones found within the sky’s visible spectrum. As such, blue wavelengths tend to scatter less efficiently in Earth’s atmosphere than others do – creating the appearance of blue skies during daylight hours.
Have you noticed how the sky tends to shift from bluer above and progressively fades away towards the horizon to yellowish hues? This happens because light has had more time to travel through the atmosphere nearer the horizon and more thoroughly scattered. In other words, blue wavelengths no longer dominate visible light output.
Sunrise and sunset allow more light to reach our eyes due to being further from the horizon, meaning it travels through more atmosphere which scatters reddish and orange wavelengths than blue ones – creating the effect that makes Sun and Moon look redder than normal during these moments of light.
As sunlight hits Earth’s atmosphere, its light is scattered by tiny molecules in the air and diffused across different colors; blue and violet light scatter more than other hues, leading to its appearance as blue skies. Furthermore, light passes through our atmosphere where it reflects off dust particles and water droplets, giving a hazy appearance to its passing; without water on Earth however, skies would likely appear pure white!
Sunlight hitting the ground can take on different hues depending on what kind of soil or rock it hits. When falling onto sandy ground, its hue may range from pale yellow or even gray; when falling on leaves or snow-covered ground however, its hue will turn rich blue.
Mountaintops tend to give an impression of darker skies due to fewer atmospheric molecules at higher elevations; less scattering occurs for shorter wavelengths such as blue and violet light; bright stars also tend to look redder or purple due to this effect.
The sky’s appearance can change throughout the year. Spring and summer skies typically feature light-blue hues; as seasons change and air becomes drier, their hue changes into something darker – sometimes depending on rainfall or cloud cover!
Fall and winter skies tend to have either a deep blue or a very pale violet hue due to shorter wavelengths of violet light scattering less than longer yellow/orange wavelengths; additionally, the atmosphere often appears darker due to less sunlight reaching earth’s surface.
At sunrise and sunset, the sky may appear red due to sunlight passing through more atmospheric layers en route to you. Blue and violet wavelengths tend to get scattered away more efficiently while reds and yellows pass unimpeded onto our eyes.