Optical phenomenon

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An optical phenomenon is any observable event which results from the interaction of light and matter. See also list of optical topics and optics. A mirage is an example of an optical phenomenon.

Common optical phenomena 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 and refracted by water droplets. Some, such as the green ray, are so rare they are sometimes thought to be mythical.[1] Others, such as Fata Morganas, are commonplace in favored 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.


A list of optical phenomena

Optical phenomena include those arising from the optical properties of: the atmosphere; of 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 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 observed 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.

Atmospheric optical phenomena

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