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Optical phenomenon

An optical phenomenon is any observable event which results from the interaction of light and matter. See also list of optical topics[?] and optics

Common optical phenomenon are often due to the interaction of light from the sun or moon with the atmosphere, clouds, water, or dust and other particulates. One common example would be the rainbow, when light from the sun is reflected off water droplets in rain as it falls to the ground. Others, such as the green ray, are so rare that many consider them to be mythical. Some, such as instances of fata Morgana, are commonplace only in certain locations.

Other phenomena are simply interesting aspects of optics, or optical effects. The colors generated by a prism are often shown in classrooms for instance.

Some optical illusions can be explained as observations of unusual optical phenomena.

Atmospheric optical phenomena include:

Other optical phenomena include:

Optical effects include:

Optical illusions:

  • The unusually large size and rich color of the Moon as it rises and sets

There are many phenomena which result from either the particle or the wave nature of light. Some are quite subtle and observable only by precise measurement using scientific instruments. One famous observation was of the bending of light from a star by the Sun during a solar eclipse. This demonstrated that space is curved. See Theory of relativity.

Observations of some phenomena such as the photoelectric effect, the flow of electric current in a material or through a vacuum (as in a photocell) when the material is exposed to light, led to advances in science, as they could not be easily explained by existing theory.

Further Reading

  • Thomas D. Rossing and Christopher J. Chiaverina, Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts, Springer, New York, 1999, hardback, ISBN 0-387-98827-0
  • Robert Greenler, Rainbows, Halos, and Glories, Elton-Wolf Publishing, 1999, hardback, ISBN 0897169263
  • Polarized Light in Nature, G. P. Können, Translated by G. A. Beerling, Cambridge University Press, 1985, hardcover, ISBN 0-521-25862-6

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