Why is the sky blue and not blue & purple?
If high frequency light is scattered, why do we see a blue sky instead of a blue and purple or violet sky?
The sky appears blue for a combination of two reasons. Before white light reaches the Earth’s surface, the light waves collide with and bounce off of the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the atmosphere. Different frequencies of light (in other words different colors) are scattered differently. Higher frequencies (blue and purple) are more easily scattered and thus bounce around in all different directions more than lower frequencies (red or orange) do. The scattering of high frequencies alone would cause the sky to appear blue and purple, but our eyes work better at frequencies near the middle of the spectrum (yellow and green). Since the color blue is closer to yellow or green than purple is, the sky we see appears blue.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.
This page has been accessed 41353 times since February 26, 2006.
Last modified: February 26, 2006 2:37:41 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)