I must begin by saying this question, although a
good one, is rather more complex due to the
physiology of 'the eye'. And yes, chromophores are
involved. I will try to make it as explicit as
possible so your students will understand.
Before I begin, a little physics to explain
colors: The visible spectrum ranges in wavelength
from 400nm to 700nm. So light of different
wavelengths within this band are perceived to have
If your class is interested
in understanding what wavelengths are, I can
explain that in another question. I just don't
want to bog your interest down with too many
Photoreceptor cells in the retina of
the eye contain photo pigments which absorb the
light that passes through the cornea. There are
four different photo pigments in the retina. Each
photo pigment contains an opsin and a chromophore.
The opsin in an integral membrane protein that
binds a chromophore molecule.
Since each type
of opsin binds to a chromophore in a different way
and filters light differently, each of the four
photo pigments absorbs light most effectively at a
different part of the visible spectrum.
retinas have three kinds of cones, containing red-
green- and blue- sensitive photo pigments. Each of
these pigments absorb and respond to light of
different wavelengths. Our ability to see color
depends upon the relative outputs of these three
cones cells (photo pigments).
has answered your question. If you would like
further information or detail about a specific
area please let me know. I would be happy to
explain it more.
The chromosphere is an irregular layer of the sun
above the photosphere where the temperature rises
from 6000 C to about 20,000 C. At these higher
temperatures hydrogen emits light that gives off a
reddish color. This colorful emission can be seen
in prominences that project above the limb of the
sun during total solar eclipses. This is what
gives the chromosphere its name
This is not related to why we
see different colors!
Every material has a
different atomic make-up and different materials
will absorb and reflect different wavelengths of
light depending on their atomic structure. The
world is illuminated by white light from the sun,
which contains a wide spectrum of wavelengths
including the visible spectrum from red to violet
(the part of the spectrum which the eye is able to
The color of a material is determined
by the wavelengths it reflects the most from the
white light. So for example a red piece of plastic
reflects red color (~600nm) but mostly absorbs the
other colors (350-590nm) so we see it as red.
If a color is absorbed we don't get to see it.
The color of an item is dependant on the range of
wavelengths illuminating it. If you look at colors
under an orange street lamp you will notice that
things are illuminated only in different shades of
orange. That is because the orange lamp has only
one wavelength, so this is the only wavelength
that can be reflected or absorbed.
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