What Chemicals Affect the Color of the Sky?


Hi, I'm Robin Higgins. And this is what chemicals affect the color of the sky. Alright, so understand that, we have to kind of understand the visible light spectrum. And so, our eyes can pick up these colors and all of these colors are actually coming from different wave lengths. So, blue light is actually the shortest, and red light light is the longest. O.k., so we have to understand one more thing before we can answer the questions well. So, let's say that we're here on Earth and then, you have the atmosphere. And you have the Sun's rays. Now the sun's rays are going to come with all these colors in them. And so during the day we end up seeing the shortest, we end up seeing blue. So, if we're standing here, that's what we see. And now, during sunset, it means that there's actually from the way that the sun's rays are coming, it actually has to travel a longer distance to get to our eyes. Because the Earth is rotating away from the sun, so we're farther away relatively from the sun. So, when you have to travel a longer distance, these short wavelengths get bounced away by different atmosphere and particles. So, if you have all of your atmosphere here and so, it's mostly O-two (O2) and N-two (N2). The short wavelengths are going to come in and they're going to get bounced away once they hit a particle. And of course, these are just all random collisions. But the long wavelengths are going to make it through. And so, the longer wavelengths are the colors of the sunset, yellow, orange and red. And so, because these are longer, they're able to miss the scattering and end up where we'll be able to see them. So that's why sunsets are more of these colors. Other molecules that affect the color of the sky are basically just pollutants. So, if you have a bunch of particles up in your atmosphere, this is really anything. Any type of carbon dioxide or anything that just creates a bunch of gas pollution is going to be more and more of these particles. Which means more and more of the shorter wavelengths, including yellow and orange are going to bounced away because there's more particles in the air. And so, that means that all we're left with is a very, very deep red sky. So, the chemicals that affect the color of this here, of the air are pollutants and then, natural things that are in the atmosphere like oxygen and nitrogen gas. I'm Robin Higgins and this is what chemicals affect the color of the sky.

Robin Higgins graduated with a B.S in Chemistry from Emory University 2010, and has just recently received her M.S in Chemistry from the University of California Los Angeles.