Artist Palette in Death Valley

January 01, 2007

Suesartistpallete copy

Provided by: Sue Strickland
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster, Sue Strickland

The photo above shows the variegated slopes of Artists Palette in Death Valley, California. Various mineral pigments have colored the volcanic deposits found here. Iron salts produce the reds, pinks and yellows, while decomposing mica causes the green, and manganese supplies the purple. The colors tend to be more prominent in the late afternoon. The cobalt blue of the sky is courtesy of Rayleigh scattering. Shorter wavelengths of sunlight (blues and violets) are more effectively scattered by the molecules in our atmosphere than are the longer wavelengths. Additionally, the low humidity of the desert air means that there are fewer water molecules overhead -- less molecules render a darker sky.

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