Now a wave length in the red is about 1/40000 of an inch, and a little calculation will show that these particles are well within the necessary limits. Prof. Tyndall has delighted audiences here with an exposition of the effect of the scattering of light by small particles in the formation of artificial skies, and it would be superfluous for me to enter more into that. Suffice it to say that when particles are small enough to form the artificial blue sky, they are fully small enough to obey the above law, and that even larger particles will suffice. We may sum up by saying that very fine particles scatter more blue light than red light, and that consequently more red light than blue light passes through a turbid medium, and that the rays obey the law prescribed by theory.
I will exemplify this once more by using the whole spectrum and placing this cell, which contains hyposulphite of soda in solution in water, in front of the slit. By dropping in hydrochloric acid, the sulphur separates out in minute particles; and you will see that, as the particles increase in number, the violet, blue, green, and yellow disappear one by one and only red is left, and finally the red disappears itself.
Now let me revert to the question why the sun is red at sunset. Those who are lovers of landscape will have often seen on some bright summer's day that the most beautiful effects are those in which the distance is almost of a match to the sky. Distant hills, which when viewed close to are green or brown, when seen some five or ten miles away appear of a delicate and delicious, almost of a cobalt, blue color. Now, what is the cause of this change in color? It is simply that we have a sky formed between us and the distant ranges, the mere outline of which looms through it. The shadows are softened so as almost to leave no trace, and we have what artists call an atmospheric effect. If we go into another climate, such as Egypt or among the high Alps, we usually lose this effect. Distant mountains stand out crisp with black shadows, and the want of atmosphere is much felt. [Photographs showing these differences were shown.] Let us ask to what this is due. In such climates as England there is always a certain amount of moisture present in the atmosphere, and this moisture may be present as very minute particles of water - so minute indeed that they will sink down in an atmosphere of normal density - or as vapor.
When present as vapor the air is much more transparent, and it is a common expression to use, that when distant hills look "so close" rain may be expected shortly to follow, since the water is present in a state to precipitate in larger particles. But when present as small particles of water the hills look very distant, owing to what we may call the haze between us and them. In recent weeks every one has been able to see very multiplied effects of such haze. The ends of long streets, for instance, have been scarcely visible, though the sun may have been shining, and at night the long vistas of gas lamps have shown light having an increasing redness as they became more distant. Every one admits the presence of mist on these occasions, and this mist must be merely a collection of intangible and very minute particles of suspended water. In a distant landscape we have simply the same or a smaller quantity of street mist occupying, instead of perhaps 1,000 yards, ten times that distance. Now I would ask, What effect would such a mist have upon the light of the sun which shone through it?
It is not in the bounds of present possibility to get outside our atmosphere and measure by the plan I have described to you the different illuminating values of the different rays, but this we can do: First, we can measure these values at different altitudes of the sun, and this means measuring the effect on each ray after passing through different thicknesses of the atmosphere, either at different times of day or at different times of the year, about the same hour. Second, by taking the instrument up to some such elevation as that to which Langley took his bolometer at Mount Whitney, and so to leave the densest part of the atmosphere below us.
FIG. 2. - RELATIVE LUMINOSITIES.
Now, I have adopted both these plans. For more than a year I have taken measurements of sunlight in my laboratory at South Kensington, and I have also taken the instrument up to 8,000 feet high in the Alps, and made observations there, and with a result which is satisfactory in that both sets of observations show that the law which holds with artificially turbid media is under ordinary circumstances obeyed by sunlight in passing through our air: which is, you will remember, that more of the red is transmitted than of the violet, the amount of each depending on the wave length. The luminosity of the spectrum observed at the Riffel I have used as my standard luminosity, and compared all others with it. The result for four days you see in the diagram.
I have diagrammatically shown the amount of different colors which penetrated on the same days, taking the Riffel as ten. It will be seen that on December 23 we have really very little violet and less than half the green, although we have four fifths of the red.
The next diagram before you shows the minimum loss of light which I have observed for different air thicknesses. On the top we have the calculated intensities of the different rays outside our atmosphere. Thus we have that through one atmosphere, and two, three, and four. And you will see what enormous absorption there is in the blue end at four atmospheres. The areas of these curves, which give the total luminosity of the light, are 761, 662, 577, 503, and 439; and if observed as astronomers observe the absorption of light, by means of stellar observations, they would have had the values, 761, 664, 578, 504, and 439 - a very close approximation one to the other.