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Flash the flame Roping Rainbows can be a Blast! Join me in some fun stuff while we play with sunlight!
"why can" icon Why can I see myself in a mirror?
  light reflection diagram
Reflection of light occurs when light rays directed at an object bounce off the object. Smooth, shiny surfaces, such as, metals, glass, polished wood, and the surfaces of liquids reflect light easily.
"why does" icon Why does the sky change color?
earth from space sailboat in water
The sky looks blue from Earth, but from space it looks black.
"why is" iconWhat is the scattering of light?
  Scattering diagram
The Earth's atmosphere is filled with lots of particles, including atmospheric gas, water droplets, dust, pollen, salt, and pollution. When light hits these particles, it is scattered all directions. As the light is scattered, different colors become visible. Scattering is responsible for creating the blue of the daytime sky.
  Try This activity
Here's a fun activity that shows you how the sky changes color, depending on where you are.
"why are" icon Why are rainbows always bent?
light rays change  
Light travels through the air in what appears to be a straight line. But when a light ray passes from one substance to another of different density, like from air to water, the light ray changes speed and bends. This is called refraction. As light travels from an area of high density to an area of low density (for example from water to air), it gains speed and bends. As light travels from an area of low density to an area of high density (for example from air to water), it slows down and bends towards the normal. Refraction is responsible for many magnificent atmospheric displays such as halos and rainbows.
"why Aren't" icon Why aren't clouds square?
  Light source graph
Diffraction is the slight bending of light as it passes around the edge of an object. In the atmosphere, diffracted light is actually bent around atmospheric particles - most commonly, the atmospheric particles are tiny water droplets found in clouds. Diffracted light can produce fringes of light, dark, or colored bands
"Why is" icon What is a spectrum of colors?
SunliTry this activityght seen as white light is really a collection of many different colors that the eye can detect. Different colors of light are refracted at different angles when passing from air into different matter (such as water or glass). A beam of light sent through a prism is broken into many colors called a spectrum. The colors have different wavelengths and are refracted because the prism slows them down at different rates. Violet and blue light have shorter wavelengths and are bent the most, red and orange light have longer wavelengths and are bent the least. The colors always appear in the same order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
"Why do" iconWhy do my legs look crooked when I dangle them in water?
Swimming cat  
Have you ever dangled your legs in a pool or bathtub? Did they appear to be crooked? You are seeing the effects of refraction. Refraction is just a fancy way of describing light that bends. It happens all the time. Have you ever put a straw into a glass of water and noticed that it seemed to bend? But when you pull the straw out, it is perfectly straight. Hmmmmm. Light travels at different speeds, depending on the substance in which it is traveling. Light moves more slowly through water than air. As the light puts on the brakes, it also changes direction a bit.
Try This activitylight reflection activity
  Blue haze
When sunlight enters the Earth's atmosphere, it encounters the atoms and molecules of air. Blue light tends to bounce off the atoms and molecules while the other colors of sunlight travel straight to the surface of Earth. Since blue light is scattered, it reaches our eyes from all parts of the sky. Blue light coming in from all directions gives the sky its blue appearance. The shade of blue depends on the amount of water vapor and dust in the air. Water vapor and dust scatter all colors of light, not just blue. When dust particles in the air collect condensing water vapor and become larger, the sky can turn from blue to a hazy white.
red sunsetAstronauts say that from space the sun appears Try this activitywhite. The sun would look white to us too if the blue light were not scattered before reaching our eyes. The sun appears yellow because yellow is what results when all of the colors except blue are combined. When the sun is low on the horizon (sunrise or sunset), sunlight enters the atmosphere at a low angle and must pass through a great deal of the atmosphere before being seen by an observer. When incoming sunlight encounters very few particles in the atmosphere, most of light reaches observers' eyes without being scattered white or yellow sunsets. When incoming sunlight encounters a heavy concentration of particles in the atmosphere (like smoke, dust, salt, volcanic dust, and pollutants), more violet and blue light is scattered resulting in a red sunset. Red sunsets are often observed from a beach because of the high concentration of salt particles suspended in the air over the oceans.
"Can You" icon Can you match the image with the solar optic? (see descriptions below)
Sky question 11.

Sun Dog

Solar Halo



Double Rainbow






Sky question 22.
Sky question 33. Sky question 44.
Sky question 55. Sky question 66.
Sky question 77. Sky question 88.

Sun Dog: A sundog is a brightly colored spot that appears to the right or left of the sun. Sundogs form when the sun is near the horizon and the sunlight is refracted (bent) by hexagonal, plate-like ice crystals floating horizontally in the air. Sundogs are brightest in winter because ice crystals are more common, but can be seen at any time. Sundogs are also known as mock suns or parhelia.

Double Rainbow: A double rainbow is two rainbows seen at the same time. One is very bright, the second is dimmer and on the outside of the main bow. The colors of the second are in reverse order.

Solar Pillar: At sunrise or sunset, a colorful pillar of light can sometimes be seen directly above the sun. Solar pillars are caused by sunlight reflecting off the flat undersides of six-sided ice crystals shaped like flying saucers. Only crystals floating directly above the sun are at thecorrect angle to reflect sunlight to our eyes. In foggy conditions, miniature pillars can sometimes be seen above street lamps.

Solar Halo: A solar halo is a ring around the sun. Haloes are most often seen in cooler weather when conditions are ideal for the formation of thin, milky sheets of clouds that cover the sky but allow the sun to shine through. Sunlight that is refracted (bent) by six-sided, prism-like ice crystals floating randomly in the thin, milky clouds create the halo effect. The same type of halo can be seen around a full moon.

Cloudbow: A cloudbow is a white rainbow. Cloudbows are similar to rainbows but they appear white because the water droplets are very tiny. Cloudbows are usually seen in foggy conditions.

Corona: Coronas occur when a thin cloud layer moves in front of the sun or moon. The light that shines through the cloud droplets curves (is diffracted) around the water droplets. The diffracted light casts a light larger than the original light source.

Glory: A glory can often be seen surrounding an airplane's shadow. It is a pale, circular rainbow caused by the scattering and reflecting of sunlight from water droplets in clouds below the plane. A glory is not a true rainbow and is usually very small. Look for one the next time you are on an airplane!

Fogbow: Fogbow droplets are slightly larger than cloudbow droplets. The droplets produce very weak colors. Fogbows are usually seen in foggy conditions.

"You wanna" icon You wanna get cooking? The sun can be a great source of heat for making solar treats!

Cosmic Cookies ActivityCookie and foil

Flash the flame


Jar of teaMake a solar cooker activity

Want to do some more cooking with the sun? Here is a link to a student activity on the Genesis Web site that shows you how to build your own solar cooker, and you'll cook your own hot dogs! If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your machine, you can download it here: Get Acrobat Reader icon
Cool Stuff About Genesis
Roping Rainbows
  1. The Solar Model
  1. A Community of Sunwatchers
  1. Roping Rainbows
  2. Answers to Matching Activity
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