The scattering of electromagnetic radiation by particles with dimensions much smaller than the wavelength of the radiation, resulting in angular separation of colors and responsible for the reddish color of sunset and the blue of the sky.
A type of scattering that occurs when light waves pass through particles that are smaller than the wavelength: this type of scattering in the atmosphere makes the sky appear blue.
The scattering of electromagnetic radiation by particles with dimensions much smaller than the wavelength of the radiation. The frequency of the radiation is not altered by this form of scattering, though the phase of the light is usually changed. Because the amount of Rayleigh scattering is greater at shorter frequencies, more scattering of the sun's rays by the Earth's atmosphere occurs on the blue end of the spectrum than at the red end, thus more blue light reaches the Earth, and the sky generally appears blue.
The deflection of a light ray as it encounters matter while propagating in a physical medium. Named for Lord Rayleigh, a British physicist, the phenomenon is due to the interaction of light and matter at the atomic or molecular level.The closer the size of the particles to the wavelength of the light, the more scattering takes place. As scattering varies as the reciprocal of the fourth power of the wavelength (Scattering = -4 ) the phenomenon decreases rapidly as the wavelength increases. As the light scatters it also variously is absorbed and attenuated by interaction with density changes and compositional variations in the crystalline structure of an optical fiber and the impurities that are always present to some extent. So, the longer wavelengths (e.g., 1550 nm) suffer less attenuation over a distance than the shorter wavelengths (e.g., 850 nm). Rayleigh scattering is the reason that the sky is blue in the day and red at sunset.The shorter blue wavelengths are scattered by matter in the atmosphere more than the green and red wavelengths, so we see blue, rather than the black of space, when the sun is overhead. During the sunset, however, the sun is at such a low angle and the sunlight passes through so much atmosphere that the shorter blue wavelengths are scattered and absorbed so much that we see little of them. The longer red wavelengths suffer less attenuation and, therefore, reach our eyes. See also atmosphere, light, medium, physical, propagation, ray, and wavelength.
Origin of rayleigh-scattering
- After John William Strutt, Third Baron Rayleigh
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- Named after the British physicist Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919).