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Geosciences LibreTexts

22: Atmospheric Optics

  • Page ID
    10193
  • Light can be considered as photon particles or electromagnetic waves, either of which travel along paths called rays. To first order, light rays are straight lines within a uniform transparent medium such as air or water, but can reflect (bounce back) or refract (bend) at an interface between two media. Gradual refraction (curved ray paths) can also occur within a single medium containing a smooth variation of optical properties. 

    The beauty of nature and the utility of physics come together in the explanation of rainbows, halos, and myriad other atmospheric optical phenomena.