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The Polarization of the Blue Sky

If you watch the sky carefully on a very clear cloudless day, you will notice that there is a broad dark blue band reaching from one horizon to the other 90° from the Sun. If you cannot recognize the band immediatley, use a polarizing filter and take a photo with a wide-angle lens - it will be quite obvious.

The blue sky is polarized because the air molecules scatter sunlight. At 90°, singly scattered light is almost completely polarized, below 90°, it is only partialy polarized. At the horizon, multiple scattering takes place. The scattered light shows a minimum of brightness about 90° from the sun that is 90° from the plane perpendicular to the sun. It is due to the absence of singly polarized light - thus the dark band.

The dark band 90° from the sun. Fuji Finepix S2 Pro digital SLR with Nikon wide- angle lens and polarizing filter. Processed with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

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