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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Vol. 17, Iss. 12 — Dec. 1, 2000
  • pp: 2129–2139

Sunset science. III. Visual adaptation and green flashes

Andrew T. Young  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 17, Issue 12, pp. 2129-2139 (2000)

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Photographs of green flashes do not preclude a role for physiological effects in these phenomena. While green flashes are certainly not after-images, there is compelling evidence that adaptation in the visual system strongly affects the perceived color of most sunset green flashes. Furthermore, the retinal image of the setting Sun is usually bright enough to bleach most of the red-sensitive photopigment in a few seconds, making the yellow stage of a sunset flash appear green. Even in air so hazy that no green light reaches the eye, a yellow flash may occur and appear green. Many, but not all, visual observations of sunset green flashes are of this yellow flash. The yellow portion of sunset green flashes helps explain their reported durations, which exceed those expected for the appearance of green light alone.

© 2000 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(010.1290) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric optics
(010.4030) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Mirages and refraction
(330.1720) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color vision
(330.5310) Vision, color, and visual optics : Vision - photoreceptors
(330.5370) Vision, color, and visual optics : Physiological optics

Original Manuscript: December 22, 1999
Revised Manuscript: July 10, 2000
Manuscript Accepted: July 13, 2000
Published: December 1, 2000

Andrew T. Young, "Sunset science. III. Visual adaptation and green flashes," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 17, 2129-2139 (2000)

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