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How does Rayleigh scattering work?

  1. Dec 1, 2011 #1
    Hello, I would really appreciate if someone explained to me how Rayleigh scattering works.

    I understand it as far as knowing that gas particles cause the shorter wavelength light (towards the violet part of the spectrum) to scatter more than the longer wavelength light. This apparently also causes us to see the sky as being blue.

    But when the light has to travel a longer distance (sunset) the sky appears red/orange, because even more light is scattered.

    Now why is that? Why does scattering of "blue" wavelenghts cause us to see a blue sky, and why does even more scattering cause us to see it as being orange? I would appreciate a detailed answer about the phenomenon.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2011 #2
    You're confused. When you look at the sky and see blue you're seeing blue light being scattered towards your eye. When you look at the sun and it looks red or orange that's because the blue light is being scattered away from your eye leaving the remaining light to enter your eye. The blue light is being scattered in all directions by Raleigh scattering. The colors you see depend on what direction you're looking.

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