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Applied Optics

Applied Optics


  • Vol. 44, Iss. 27 — Sep. 20, 2005
  • pp: 5737–5745

On the colors of distant objects

David K. Lynch and S. Mazuk  »View Author Affiliations

Applied Optics, Vol. 44, Issue 27, pp. 5737-5745 (2005)

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Distant objects like clouds, mountains, and the Sun can appear to have colors that are significantly different from their intrinsic colors: the low Sun is often red, white clouds and snow-capped peaks appear yellow or pink, and dark green or gray mountains can appear blue or purple. The color alteration increases with distance, or alternatively, optical depth. We investigate the perceived colors of distant objects by computing the CIE chromaticity coordinates from their spectra. For sources viewed through significant amounts of atmosphere (e.g., the low Sun), MODTRAN4 radiative-transfer calculations are used to retrieve the spectra. In addition to clouds and mountains, the colors of stars, the Sun, and the sky are presented as a function of solar elevation under a variety of atmospheric conditions.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(010.1290) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric optics
(290.1310) Scattering : Atmospheric scattering
(290.2200) Scattering : Extinction
(290.5870) Scattering : Scattering, Rayleigh
(330.1720) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color vision

Original Manuscript: February 1, 2005
Revised Manuscript: April 26, 2005
Manuscript Accepted: April 29, 2005
Published: September 20, 2005

David K. Lynch and S. Mazuk, "On the colors of distant objects," Appl. Opt. 44, 5737-5745 (2005)

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