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Dispersion of Light
by a glass prism

Another example of refraction is the dispersion of white light into its individual colors by a glass prism. As visible light exits the prism, it is refracted and separated into a magnificent display of colors.

[Image: a prism (30K)]
Photograph by: Susan Schwartzenberg (c)1997, The Exploratorium

Each color from the original beam of light has its own particular wavelength (or color) and each wavelength is slowed differently by the glass. The amount of refraction increases as the wavelength of light decreases. Shorter wavelengths of light (violet and blue) are slowed more and consequently experience more bending than do the longer wavelengths (orange and red).

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Credits and Acknowledgments for WW2010.
Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.