Facts about White Light

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This diagram introduces white light, the name given to light that contains all wavelength of the visible spectrum.


Remember that:

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Facts about White Light

TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
When white light strikes an object, its colour is determined by which wavelengths of light are absorbed and which wavelengths are reflected towards the observer.
Although pure white light is perceived as colourless, it actually contains all colours in the visible spectrum.
White light is the name for light containing all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

About the diagram

About the diagram
  • This diagram introduces white light, the name given to light that contains all wavelengths of the visible spectrum.
Remember that:
  • White light contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum, but to produce white light, each wavelength must be of equal intensity.
  • White light contains all wavelengths of light that correspond with the colours of the rainbow.
  • The white light human beings see does not include infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light because they are outside the visible spectrum.
Now let’s look at that in detail:
  • White light is the name given to visible light that contains all wavelengths of the visible spectrum at equal intensities.
  • As light travels through a vacuum or a medium it is described as white light if it contains all the wavelengths of visible light.
  • As light travels through the air it is invisible to our eyes.
  • The term white light doesn’t mean light is white as it travels through the air.
  • When white light strikes a neutral-coloured object and all wavelengths are reflected it appears white to an observer.
  • When some wavelengths are absorbed by an object and others are reflected then it is the reflected wavelengths that determine the colour an observer sees.

Some key terms

Wavelength is a measurement from any point on the path of a wave to the same point on its next oscillation. The measurement is made parallel to the centre-line of the wave.

The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is called the visible spectrum.

  • The visible spectrum is the range of wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that correspond with all the different colours we see in the world.
  • As light travels through the air it is invisible to our eyes.
  • Human beings don’t see wavelengths of light, but they do see the spectral colours that correspond with each wavelength and colours produced when different wavelengths are combined.
  • The visible spectrum includes all the spectral colours between red and violet and each is produced by a single wavelength.
  • The visible spectrum is often divided into named colours, though any division of this kind is somewhat arbitrary.
  • Traditional colours referred to in English include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

Electromagnetic radiation refers to the transfer of all forms of radiation through space by electromagnetic waves.

Sunlight is light emitted by the Sun and is also called daylight or visible light.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes electromagnetic waves with all possible wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, ranging from low energy radio waves through visible light to high energy gamma rays.

  • To be clear about the RGB colour model it is useful to remember first that:
    • The visible spectrum is the range of wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that correspond with all the different colours we see in the world.
    • A spectral colour is a colour corresponding with a single wavelength of visible light, or with a narrow band of adjacent wavelengths.
    • The human eye, and so human perception, is tuned to the visible spectrum and so to spectral colours between red and violet. However, because of the way the eye works, we can see many other colours which are produced by mixing colours from different areas of the spectrum. A particularly useful range of colours is produced by mixing red, green and blue light.
    • RGB colour is an entirely different approach to producing and managing colour.
  • RGB colour is an additive colour model in which red, green and blue light is combined in various proportions to reproduce a wide range of other colours. The name of the model comes from the initials of the three additive primary colours, red, green, and blue.
  • Except for the three primary colours, RGB colours are not spectral colours because they are produced by combining colours from different areas of the visible spectrum.
  • RGB colour provides the basis for a wide range of technologies used to reproduce digital colour.
  • RGB colour provides the basis for reproducing colour in ways that are well aligned with human perception.
  • When an observer has separate controls allowing them to adjust the intensity of overlapping red, green and blue coloured lights they are able to create a match for a very extensive range of colours.
  • When looking at any modern display device such as a computer screen, mobile phone or projector we are looking at RGB colour.
  • Magenta is an RGB colour for which there is no equivalent spectral colour.

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