Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Solar Light Polarization
Name: Yogeraj
Status: student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002

Why is light from the sun partially polarized and not fully polarized?

Sunlight is polarized because it is scattered by electrons in air molecules. The electrons are made to vibrate in directions perpendicular to the sunbeam and reradiate the light mainly in a direction perpendicular to the motion of the electron (not at all in the direction along the electron's movement.

So light coming directly toward you, at noon for example, is unpolarized. It becomes more polarized as you look in directions perpendicular to the sun's rays. At sunset if you look straight up in a direction perpendicular to the sun's rays, however, it is still not fully polarized because some of the light is scattered more than once before it reaches your eyes.

Best, Dick Plano...

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory