Why is the Sky Blue?

Posted on November 26, 2007  Comments (5)

Here is a a nice post explaining why we see blue when we look at the sky, Why Is The Sky Blue?:

Most of the atmospheric gases are transparent to visible light. They don’t filter the Sun’s light and make it yellow, as a yellow filter would. Besides, if colored gases made the Sun appear yellow, where does the blue come from? The part of the atmosphere that changes the Sun’s light is the molecules and tiny particles that are floating in it.

There are particles of water–tiny droplets too small to be seen as clouds. There are particles of organic material–smog or haze, condensed from volatile organic chemicals that have gotten into the air. There are particles of sulfuric acid from volcanoes and power plants. There are molecules of gases in the atmosphere.

These tiny particles, much smaller than the wavelengths of sunlight, scatter the sunlight as photons from the Sun interact with the particles. This is called Rayleigh scattering after the British physicist who described how it works. (Larger particles, like the water droplets in clouds, are closer to the wavelengths of sunlight, and they scatter it differently. This is why clouds are not blue.)

Science explained – quick overviews of scientific concepts: How Does That Happen? Science Provides the AnswerIncredible Insects10 Science Facts You Should KnowWhat Everyone Should LearnScience Summary: PhotosynthesisString Theory in 1 pageHow do antibiotics kill bacteria?

5 Responses to “Why is the Sky Blue?”

  1. CuriousCat » Science Explains: Flame Color
    February 24th, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    “Have you ever wondered why some flames are yellow, while others are blue? Growing up, I was always told that it was a matter of temperature, that hot flames were blue and cooler flames were yellow…”

  2. Curious Cat Science Blog » Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations?
    October 7th, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    at higher elevations the air pressure is lower (molecules and atoms under less pressure move more slowly which means the temperature is less)

  3. simon
    March 1st, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

    Now if I can just commit that to memory the next time my son asks me some impossible question I’ll be able to answer it

  4. Sean Butler
    July 9th, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    I used to always hear the sky was blue because the ocean reflected on the earths atmosphere…thanks for the knowledge…lol

  5. Curious Cat Science Blog » What is a Molecule?
    August 24th, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

    A molecule is the smallest particle of a compound that has all the chemical properties of that compound. Molecules are made up of two or more atoms, either of the same element or of two or more different elements…

Leave a Reply