Why is the Sky Blue?
Kids ask a lot of questions. mental_floss has answers. This week we launched WHY?, our new series for kids and parents. We'll tackle all types of questions children have about how the world works by providing science-based, kid-friendly content. Our answers are written with early readers (ages 4 to 7) in mind, but we think they're interesting—and educational—for everyone.
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Light is made up of waves of different sizes called wavelengths. The short waves look blue. Our atmosphere is like a blanket made up of gases and particles that wraps around the Earth. When sunlight hits our atmosphere, the light waves scatter in all directions … especially the short blue ones.
We see different wavelengths as different colors. Sunlight looks
Our eyes can only see a few of the colors in the entire universe, and sky blue is one of them! The colors we can see are called visible light. But most light in the universe is invisible to our eyes. It shines at wavelengths we can’t see without special instruments. These other wavelengths include gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, microwaves, and radiowaves.
For fun further reading, check out NASA's answer to this classic question. It features helpful illustrations.