The atmospheric extinction of light

Stephen W. Hughes, Michael Cowley, Sean Powell, Joshua Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


An experiment is described that enables students to understand the properties of atmospheric extinction due to Rayleigh scattering. The experiment requires the use of red, green and blue lasers attached to a travelling microscope or similar device. The laser beams are passed through an artificial atmosphere, made from milky water, at varying depths, before impinging on either a light meter or a photodiode integral to a Picotech Dr. DAQ ADC. A plot of measured spectral intensity verses depth reveals the contribution Rayleigh scattering has to the extinction coefficient. For the experiment with the light meter, the extinction coefficients for red, green and blue light in the milky sample of water were 0.27, 0.36 and 0.47 cm-1 respectively and 0.032, 0.037 and 0.092 cm-1 for the Picotech Dr. DAQ ADC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number015601
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2015


  • atmosphere
  • extinction
  • laser
  • scattering
  • sunset


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