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Download PDF What If the Sky Was Red?

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Red sky at night but why? | ScienceBlogs

When we see the Sun at sunrise or sunset, when it is low in the sky, it may appear yellow, orange, or red. But that is only because its short-wavelength colors green, blue, violet are scattered out by the Earth's atmosphere, much like small waves are dispersed by big rocks along the shore.

Hence only the reds, yellows, and oranges get through the thick atmosphere to our eyes. When the Sun is high in the sky, the shorter waves, primarily the blue, strike air molecues in the upper atmosphere and bounce around and scatter. Hence explaining why the sky looks blue.


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Some people think that enough blue light is scattered out in the Earth's atmosphere to cause the Sun to appear slightly yellow. What do you think?

Why is the sunset red or orange?

Some think that the Sun's output in visible light peaks in the yellow. However, the Sun's visible output peaks in the green:.

Why Is the Sky Blue?

Image from Art Neuendorffer. When the Sun is high in the sky, the light has to travel a shorter distance through the atmosphere. This means most of the yellow, orange, and red light passes through while a small amount of blue and purple light is scattered and removed from the mix. The Sun, therefore, looks yellow for us here on Earth.

Lil Skies - Red Roses (ft. Landon Cube) (Lyrics)

Due to Rayleigh scattering, most of the light of shorter wavelengths — the blue, violet, and green — are scattered away multiple times, leaving only lights of longer wavelength — the red, orange, and yellow — to pass straight through to the observer. This is why a rising and setting Sun tends to take on spectacular hues of red, orange, and yellow. The quality of the air that sunlight has to pass through also has an effect on the color of sunrises and sunsets.

The Colors of Sunset and Twilight

Dust particles and pollutants tend to tone down the colors in the sky as well as impede light from reaching the observer on the ground. Because of this, the sky takes on dull hues of red and yellow when the air is full of dust and pollutants.


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  5. This is why sunrises and sunsets in rural areas, over the ocean, and deserts are much more vibrant and colorful than over cities and urban areas. Tips: Take pictures of sunrises and sunsets. Rayleigh scattering is also responsible for giving the Moon a reddish or orange hue during lunar eclipses. The condition of the Earth's atmosphere, including the amount of pollution and dust from storms and volcanic eruptions, can affect the shade of red the Moon takes on during the eclipse.

    Topics: Astronomy , Sun , Atmospheric Phenomena.

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    Check out our interactive maps, animations, local times, and safety tips. Watch the Sun turn dark during the total solar eclipse on July 2, We are streaming LIVE, check your local times here. Learn more about different kinds of twilight, dawn and dusk.