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Science with Sabrina: Why are sunsets red?

Young kids learn the sky is blue, the grass is green, and sunsets are orange. Meteorologist Sabrina Bates explains why in this week's science lesson.


Have you ever asked yourself why the sky is blue? Well, of course, the reason is science. It has to do with the visible light spectrum. 

Let's show you a simple experiment.  

I stepped outside with two prisms. These are crystals that break up white light. When I start moving them around, the sunlight hits the prism differently. When the white light perfectly shines through the prism, the light is separated into all the colors.  

You've heard of the ROYGBIV, right? Those are the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Well, sunlight has all of these colors, even though our eyes only see it as white. That's because as light passes through our atmosphere, it's scattered in all directions because of gas molecules and particles in the sky.  

Now, all of this light travels in a straight line unless something interferes with it.  

This explains why our sunsets are reddish. At sunset, the sun is near the horizon, so the light has to travel longer to reach your eyes. Blue and violet have short wavelengths, so most of the time, these colors have scattered out. But, red and orange have longer wavelengths so those colors can travel farther.

 And that's what you end up seeing! 

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