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Atmospheric refraction

by Guest3649  |  12 years, 8 month(s) ago

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Atmospheric refraction

 Tags: atmospheric, REFRACTION

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  1. nandinishetye
    Atmospheric refraction is the deviation of light or other electromagnetic wave from a straight line as it passes through the atmosphere due to the variation in air density as a function of altitude. Atmospheric refraction near the ground produces mirages and can make distant objects appear to shimmer or ripple. The term also applies to the refraction of sound.

    Atmospheric refraction causes astronomical objects to appear higher in the sky than they are in reality. It affects not only lightrays but all electromagnetic radiation, although in varying degrees . For example in visible light, blue is more affected than red. This may cause astronomical objects to be spread out into a spectrum in high-resolution images.

    Whenever possible astronomers will always schedule their observations around the time of culmination of an object when it is highest in the sky. Likewise sailors will never shoot a star which is not at least 20° or more above the horizon. If observations close to the horizon cannot be avoided, it is possible to equip a telescope with control systems to compensate for the shift caused by the refraction. If the dispersion is a problem too, (in case of broadband high-resolution observations) atmospheric refraction correctors can be employed as well (made from pairs of rotating glass prisms). But as the amount of atmospheric refraction is function of temperature and pressure as well as humidity (the amount of water vapour especially important at mid-infrared wavelengths) the amount of effort needed for a successful compensation can be prohibitive.

    It gets even worse when the atmospheric refraction is not homogenous, when there is turbulence in the air for example. This is the cause of twinkling of the stars and deformation of the shape of the sun at sunset and sunrise.

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