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Rayleigh Scattering

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    Regarding Raleigh Scattering (Wikipedia)
    "The oscillating electric field of a light wave acts on the charges within a particle, causing them to move at the same frequency. The particle therefore becomes a small radiating dipole whose radiation we see as scattered light"
    Please anyone give simple explanation!

    Mentors note: Post split off from another thread into its own.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I wonder can I get away with an ASCII diagram? I'll try ....

    There is a light ray coming in from the left. It hits a molecule of N2 or O2. This molecule vibrates and radiates energy in all directions. So the energy which originally was in a ray with a set direction, becomes converted into radiation going in all directions.


    Actually, I'm willing to bet that the textbook from where you lifted your quoted text would have had an accompanying diagram similar to what I've attempted.

    Does that diagram look blue to you? It's just cut and pasted, so any colour is mystifying. oo)
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Is that a diagram? All I see is 3 blue boxes with an X in them and a star.
  5. Jan 19, 2015 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    UTF-8 character encoding I think. You'll just have to use your imagination!
  6. Jan 19, 2015 #5
    The original explanation is already as simple as it gets. What part do you need explained?

    Light is an electromagnetic wave. That means it consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. The electric field component will cause electrons in a media, e.g. a particle, to move with the same frequency and in the same direction as the electric field vector of the light's electromagnetic wave.
    These oscillating charges then form a new source of light -- a dipole source -- that radiates with the same frequency = color as the original light.
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