Common optical phenomena are often due to the interaction of light from the sun or moon with the atmosphere, clouds, water, dust, and other particulates. One common example is the rainbow, when light from the sun is reflected and refracted by water droplets. Some, such as the green ray, are so rare they are sometimes thought to be mythical. Others, such as Fata Morganas, are commonplace in favored locations.
Optical phenomena include those arising from the optical properties of the atmosphere; the rest of nature (other phenomena); of objects, whether natural or human-made (optical effects); and of our eyes (Entoptic phenomena). Also listed here are unexplained phenomena that could have an optical explanation and "optical illusions" for which optical explanations have been excluded.
There are many phenomena that 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 is of the bending of light from a star by the Sun observed during a solar eclipse. This demonstrates that space is curved, as the theory of relativity predicts.
Atmospheric optical phenomena
- Alexander's band, the dark region between the two bows of a double rainbow.
- Anticrepuscular rays
- Auroral light (northern and southern lights, aurora borealis and aurora australis)
- Belt of Venus
- Brocken Spectre
- Circumhorizontal arc
- Circumzenithal arc
- Cloud iridescence
- Crepuscular rays
- Earth's shadow
- Earthquake lights
- Green flash
- Halos, of Sun or Moon, including sun dogs
- Heiligenschein or halo effect, partly caused by the opposition effect
- Light pillar
- Mirages (including Fata Morgana)
- Shadow set
- Sun dogs
- Tyndall effect
Other optical phenomena
- Asterism, star gems such as star sapphire or star ruby
- Aura, a phenomenon in which gas or dust surrounding an object luminesces or reflects light from the object
- Aventurescence, also called the Schiller effect, spangled gems such as aventurine quartz and sunstone
- Baily's beads, grains of sunlight visible in total solar eclipses.
- camera obscura
- Chatoyancy, cat's eye gems such as chrysoberyl cat's eye or aquamarine cat's eye
- Chromatic polarization
- Diffraction, the apparent bending and spreading of light waves when they meet an obstruction
- Double refraction or birefringence of calcite and other minerals
- Double-slit experiment
- Evanescent wave
- Fluorescence, also called luminescence or photoluminescence
- Mie scattering (Why clouds are white)
- Metamerism as of alexandrite
- Moiré pattern
- Newton's rings
- Pleochroism gems or crystals, which seem "many-colored"
- Polarized light-related phenomena such as double refraction, or Haidinger's brush
- Rayleigh scattering (Why the sky is blue, sunsets are red, and associated phenomena)
- Synchrotron radiation
- The separation of light into colors by a prism
- Thomson scattering
- Total internal reflection
- Twisted light
- Umov effect
- Zeeman effect
- The ability of light to travel through space or through a vacuum.
- Diffraction of light through the eyelashes
- Haidinger's brush
- Monocular diplopia (or polyplopia) from reflections at boundaries between the various ocular media
- Phosphenes from stimulation other than by light (e.g., mechanical, electrical) of the rod cells and cones of the eye or of other neurons of the visual system
- Purkinje images.
Some phenomena are yet to be conclusively explained and may possibly be some form of optical phenomena. Some consider many of these "mysteries" to simply be local tourist attractions that are not worthy of thorough investigation.
- "Green Rays". mintaka.sdsu.edu.
- "Belt of Venus over Cerro Paranal". Picture of the Week. ESO. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- "Welcome to Phenomenon! Your guide through the mysterious and unexplained". www.stateoftheart.nl.
- Philip Mantle. "The Hessdalen Lights". Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- "UQ scientist unlocks secret of Min Min lights".
- "Big Thicket National Preserve Virtual Field Trip". Archived from the original on 4 March 2005.
- Gagliardi, Jason (17 November 2002). "Behind the Secret of the Naga's Fire" – via www.time.com.
- 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 0-89716-926-3
- Polarized Light in Nature, G. P. Können, Translated by G. A. Beerling, Cambridge University Press, 1985, hardcover, ISBN 0-521-25862-6
- M.G.J. Minnaert, Light and Color in the Outdoors, ISBN 0-387-97935-2
- John Naylor "Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide", CUP, 2002, ISBN 0-521-80925-8
- Abenteuer im Erdschatten (German).
- The Marine Observers' Log
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