Light is an electromagnetic spectrum. When sunlight enters the atmosphere, the light scatters by the atmosphere. The atmosphere is mainly of air molecules and trillions of air molecules. Air molecules scatter blue colors more than red and green colors. The sky would look black if there were no atmosphere and no particles to scatter the light.
The sun seems white. So, the blue color of the sky is an optical illusion. It is due to the preferential scattering of light by the air molecules. There is the least amount of scattering when the sun is overhead, so the sky appears white.
Is The Sky Really Blue?
The sky isn’t color because Earth’s atmosphere is transparent to visible light. As far as wavelengths go, the sky is bluish-violet or purple. Our brain and eyes can not process this color, and the energy of this color is low. So we can not see this color. Sky color depends on the atmosphere and the sunlight effect.
Our sky is an atmospheric color. With the atmosphere, the sky looks as black as the moon sky. The sunlight position and atmospheric particles are responsible for the various colors of the sky. That’s why you see a red sky at sunrise, sunset, and night. The sky is not blue scientifically.
Why Is The Sky Blue?
The blue color of the sky is primarily due to Rayleigh scattering, which occurs when sunlight interacts with molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. Here’s a simplified explanation of why the sky appears blue:
Sunlight Composition: Sunlight comprises a range of different wavelengths, including all the colors of the visible light spectrum. These wavelengths include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Rayleigh Scattering: When sunlight enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it encounters gas molecules, such as nitrogen and oxygen, and other particles, like dust and water vapor. The molecules are much smaller than the wavelength of visible light, causing a scattering effect known as Rayleigh scattering.
Scattering of Shorter Wavelengths: The scattering of light by the atmospheric molecules is more pronounced for shorter wavelengths, such as blue and violet. These shorter wavelengths are scattered in all directions as they interact with the molecules, whereas longer wavelengths like red and orange are scattered less.
Blue Light Dominance: The blue and violet light is scattered more widely and dispersed throughout the atmosphere, making it more prevalent than the other colors. This dominant scattering of shorter wavelengths contributes to the perception of the sky as blue.
Human Vision: Our eyes are more sensitive to blue than violet light, further enhancing the sky’s perception of blue. Additionally, our brains interpret the combination of scattered blue light and other visual cues to perceive the sky as blue.
The atmosphere makes the sky blue. The atmosphere contains 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and carbon dioxide. It also contains dust particles, sand particles, fog, water vapors, etc. Also, there are so many types of particles in the atmosphere.
Now, what do these particles do to make the sky blue? When the white light from the sun reaches the atmosphere, the different color wavelengths will strike that particle. Then scatter away, strike that particle everywhere. The size of the particles in the atmosphere matches the blue wavelength of light, and then the blue color scatters away the most.
What color do you think scatters more? Blue is one of the colors of light that scatters the most! As the light moves into the air, the blue-color light bounces everywhere in the sky. Tyndall effect is due to the scattering of light. Colloids show the Tyndall effect but not solutions and suspensions.
Light is scattered by dust, but other particles, such as air molecules and water droplets, can scatter light. If we consider light a wave, we can say that these particles reflect the light waves in different directions. It’s like the particles are scattering the light in random directions.
When the light hits the prism, it separates into many colors, and we have a rainbow. So, the light is white when it moves in a straight line until it hits the prism. Then, it bends, and we can see colors. If we consider lighting a particle of photons, we say they absorb the photons and re-emit them in different random directions. Do you know what the wavelength of visible light is? The correct answer is the range is 400 nanometers to 700.
White light from the sun falls on larger particles, such as dust particles. It has three primary colors: red, green, and blue. The dust particle scatters all the colors equally. So, as you can see, red, green, and blue are scattering equally in all directions. Most sunlight goes straight through, and the dust particles scatter only a small percentage.
The air molecules (nitrogen and oxygen) are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. The air molecule scatters the different colors differently. The blue color is scattered more than the green color and spread more than the red color. Because different colors have different wavelengths and shorter wavelengths are more scattered than larger wavelengths.
The blue color has the smallest wavelength. It collides with dust particles and molecules. So, it scatters the most, and the red color has the largest wavelength. That’s why it scatters the least. The blue color scatters ten times more than the red color. This is known as preferential scattering, which happens in particles smaller than the wavelength of visible light, such as air molecules. So that’s why we see the sky appear blue.
Physics explanation for the blue sky: Prism can break the light into different colors. In this case, the white light from the Sun comes through, and then it hits a particular piece of material. A prism has a characteristic that different wavelengths will go through the prism in slightly different directions, called the index of refraction.
It means that it will split out the red light. It won’t bend it as much. That’s maybe at 700 nanometers wavelength. But the purple and blue light, around 400 nanometers in wavelength, will bend the entire solar spectrum much more, with water acting as a prism to see a rainbow.
The Sun has to be going through a rain cloud. It must go through water droplets, and then you’ll see the beautiful rainbow spectrum. Blue light is higher in energy culture than ultraviolet rays. That means it’s lower in wavelength by around 400 nanometers.
On the other hand, red light is lower in energy, closer to the infrared, and has a wavelength of 700 nanometers. Our brains make sense of this wavelength by experiencing it. As a shorter wavelength, the blue light scatters or bounces more, and that’s why you see the blue sky.
When the wavelength of a particular wave is less, it scatters more. When the wavelength of a specific wave is large, the scattering of that wave is less. It is the relation that Lord Rayleigh had found out. The mathematical relation stated that the scattering intensity is inversely proportional to the fourth power of wavelength.
In other words, the intensity of scattering is directly proportional to one by lambda to the power four.
Formula: Intensity ∝1/λ^4; Here, lambda is the wavelength.
As our exploration of the ocean’s blue mystery comes to a gentle close, we’ve navigated through the realms of physics, biology, and even a bit of poetry to understand the essence of the sea’s color. It’s a journey that has taken us from the sun’s rays, scattering across the water’s surface, to the deepest, darkest depths where light dares not venture.
We’ve discovered that the sea’s blue is not just a color but a reflection of the vast and intricate world that lies beneath its surface, a symbol of the earth’s complexity and beauty. So, the next time you find yourself standing before the ocean, let the knowledge of why it’s blue enrich your sense of wonder and connection to this magnificent planet we call home. May this understanding inspire you to look beyond the surface, into the sea and life, seeking the deeper truths that lie beneath.
Baird, J. C.; Wagner, M. “The moon illusion: I. How high is the sky?”. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Tyndall, John. “On the Blue Colour of the Sky, the Polarization of Skylight, and on the Polarization of Light by Cloudy Matter Generally.”
Lord Rayleigh. “On the scattering of light by small particles.” Philosophical Magazine.
Watson, J. G. “Visibility: Science and Regulation.” J. Air & Waste Manage.
Gibbs, Philip. “Why is the sky Blue?”. Usenet Physics FAQ.