Breaking News
More () »

SCIENCE BEHIND: The colors of the sunrises

What gives the sunrises and sunsets their warm hues?

NORFOLK, Va. — Do you remember the name of the gentleman who helped you learn the colors of the rainbow?

Roy G. Biv.

The names take center stage in explaining how sunrises and sunsets get those vivid colors at the beginning and end of the day.

Light lives on a spectrum with frequencies and wavelengths. If you grab a prism, you can see the different colors of the rainbow from the cooler purples to "ROY."

Our atmosphere is made up of multiple gases, water vapor, and different particles. Those particles scatter, reflect and sometimes absorb incoming light, causing it to appear to our eyes as different colors.

"B.I.V." stands for the colors with shorter wavelengths while "R.O.Y." is an acronym to remember those colors that have longer wavelengths.

Sunlight has more of the atmosphere to travel through when it's closer to the horizon and that means the shorter wavelengths of the cooler blues and purples get absorbed and scatter.

So because of that, the reds and oranges we adore in the sunrises—and sunsets—shine through. 


RELATED: SCIENCE BEHIND: NASA's supersonic aircraft tries to hush the sonic boom


RELATED: SCIENCE BEHIND: Why do the leaves change colors in the fall?

RELATED: SCIENCE BEHIND: Colors of the fall leaves

RELATED: SCIENCE BEHIND: What happens when a star gets too close to a Black Hole?