Did You Know: Transparency of Earth's Atmosphere

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Did you know that Earth's atmosphere blocks some colors of sunlight? This segment introduces the idea that some wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light do not make it to Earth’s surface because they are absorbed by molecules in the atmosphere.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).

Image of the Sun, visible light (Solar Dynamics Observatory)
Image of the Sun, ultraviolet and visible light (Solar Dynamics Observatory)
Image of the Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean (Expedition 23 Crew, International Space Station)
Image of Earth’s atmosphere over China and Kazakhstan (Expedition 48 Crew, International Space Station)
Written by Margaret Carruthers
Designed by Dani Player
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC

Text, Did You Know? Earth's Atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere blocks some colors of sunlight.
The Sun emits a rainbow of colors that human eyes detect as visible light.
It also gives off invisible forms of light, mostly in the form of ultraviolet and infrared light.
But even on a clear, cloudless day, not all of the sunlight that reaches the top of Earth's atmosphere makes it to the surface.
Lines of color. From left to right, Infrared, Visible Light, Ultraviolet. Text, Certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by gases like oxygen, ozone, water, and carbon dioxide.
Most of the ultraviolet and infrared light, along with small amounts of visible light, never reached the ground.
Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, (Expedition 23 Crew, International Space Station). Earth's atmosphere is not completely transparent.