The Color of the Sky

DOI: 10.4236/acs.2012.24045   PDF   HTML     5,787 Downloads   10,151 Views   Citations


The color of the sky in day-time and at twilight is studied by means of spectroscopy, which provides an unambiguous way to understand and quantify why a sky is blue, pink, or red. The colors a daylight sky can take primarily owe to Rayleigh extinction and ozone absorption. Spectra of the sky illuminated by the sun can generally be represented by a generic analytical expression which involves the Rayleigh function , ozone absorption, and, to a lesser extend, aerosol extinction. This study is based on a representative sample of spectra selected from a few hundred observations taken in different places, times, and dates, with a portable fiber spectrometer.

Share and Cite:

F. Zagury, "The Color of the Sky," Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, Vol. 2 No. 4, 2012, pp. 510-517. doi: 10.4236/acs.2012.24045.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] L. Rayleigh, “On the Light from the Sky, Its Polarization and Color,” Philosophical Magazine, Vol. 41, 1871, pp. 107-120.
[2] L. Rayleigh, “On the Transmission of Light through an Atmosphere Containing Small Particles in Suspension and on the Origin of the Blue of the Sky,” Philosophical Magazine, Vol. 47, 1899, pp. 375-384.
[3] A. Lallemand, “Sur la Polarisation et la Fluorescence de I’Atmosphère,” Comptes Rendus de I’Académie des Sciences, Vol. 75, 1872, pp. 707-711.
[4] W. N. Hartley, “On the Absorption of Solar Rays by Atmospheric Ozone,” Journal of the Chemical Society, Vol. 39, 1881, pp. 111-128.
[5] J. Chappuis, “Sur le Spectre d’Absorption de I’Ozone,” Comptes Rendus de I’Académie des Sciences, Vol. 91, 1880, pp. 985-986.
[6] J. Chappuis, “Etude Spectroscopique de I’Ozone,” Comptes Rendus de I’Académie des Sciences, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1882, pp. 137-186.
[7] P. Brimblecombe, “Aerosols and Air Pollution in Art,” Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of Aerosol Science, Wien, 31 August-2 September 2000, pp. 11-24.
[8] R. B. Husar, “Atmospheric Aerosol Science before 1900,” Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of Aerosol Science, Wien, 31 August-2 September 2000, pp. 25-36.
[9] H. C. van de Hulst, “A Historical Sketch of Light Scattering by Small Particle,” Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of Aerosol Science, Wien, 31 August-2 September 2000, pp. 69-76.
[10] R. L. Lee, W. Meyer and G. Hoeppe, “Atmospheric Ozone and Colors of the Antarctic Twilight Sky,” Applied Optics, Vol. 50, No. 28, 2011, pp. 162-171. doi:10.1364/AO.50.00F162
[11] E. O. Hulburt, “Explanation of the Brightness and Color of the Sky, Particularly the Twilight Sky,” Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 43, No. 2, 1953, pp. 113-118. doi:10.1364/JOSA.43.000113
[12] G. V. Rozenberg, “Twilight: A Study in Atmospheric Optics,” Plenum Press, New York, 1966.
[13] J. V. Dave and C. L. Mateer, “The Effect of Stratospheric Dust on the Color of the Twilight Sky,” Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 73, No. 22, 1968, pp. 6897-6913. doi:10.1029/JB073i022p06897
[14] C. N. Adams, G. N. Plass and G. W. Kattawar, “The Influence of Ozone and Aerosols on the Brightness and Color of the Twilight Sky,” Journal of Atmospheric Science, Vol. 31, No. 6, 1974, pp. 1662-1674. doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1974)031<1662:TIOOAA>2.0.CO;2
[15] E. J. McCartney, “Optics of the Atmosphere,” John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1976.
[16] C. F. Bohren and A. B. Fraser, “Color of the Sky,” Physics Teacher, Vol. 23, No. 5, 1985, pp. 267-272. doi:10.1119/1.2341808
[17] O. R. Wulf, A. F. Moore and E. H. Melvin, “Note: The Atmospheric Ozone Absorption in the Visible Spectrum,” Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 79, 1934, pp. 270-272. doi:10.1086/143534
[18] D. C. Giancoli, “Physics for Scientists and Engineers Upper Saddle River,” Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 2008.
[19] F. Zagury and M. Fujii, “Spectral Analysis of Red Scattered Sunlight at Sunrise,” New Astronomy, Vol. 8, No. 6, 2003, pp. 549-556. doi:10.1016/S1384-1076(03)00048-4
[20] F. Zagury and F. Goutail, “Spectral Analysis of Extinguished Sunlight,” New Astronomy, Vol. 8, No. 6, 2003, pp. 537-548. doi:10.1016/S1384-1076(03)00047-2
[21] F. Patat, O. S. Ugolnikov and O. V. Postylyakov, “TUBVRI Twilight Sky Brightness at ESO-Paranal,” Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 455, No. 1, 2006, pp. 385-393. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20064992
[22] R. Fosbury, G. Koch and J. Koch, “Ozone: Twilit Skies, and (exo-)Planet Transits,” The Messenger, Vol. 143, 2011, pp. 27-31.
[23] M. Sneep and W. Ubachs, “Direct Measurement of the Rayleigh Scattering Cross Section in Various Gases,” Journal of Quantitative and Spectroscopic Radiative Transfer, Vol. 92, No. 3, 2005, pp. 293-310. doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2004.07.025
[24] A. Angstrom, “Techniques of Determining the Turbidity of the Atmosphere,” Tellus, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1961, pp. 214-223. doi:10.1111/j.2153-3490.1961.tb00078.x
[25] G. E. Shaw, J. A. Reagan and B. M. Herman, “Investigations of Atmospheric Extinction Using Direct Solar Radiation Measurements Made with a Multiple Wavelength Radiometer,” Journal of Applied Meteorology, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1973, pp. 374-380. doi:10.1175/1520-0450(1973)012<0374:IOAEUD>2.0.CO;2
[26] G. Thuillier, et al., “The Solar Spectral Irradiance from 200 to 2400 nm as Measured by the SOLSPEC Spectrometer from the ATLAS and EURECA Missions,” Solar Physics, Vol. 214, No. 1, 2003, pp. 1-22. doi:10.1023/A:1024048429145

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.