The splitting apart of a beam of light of mixed wavelengths (i.e., colors) into its component wavelengths. This can occur in refraction (when it is responsible for the rainbow and the production of a spectrum with a prism), in diffraction by a diffraction grating or grating spectroscope, or in scattering (giving rise, for example, to the blue color of the sky). The dispersive power of an optical medium is a measure of the extent to which its refractive index varies with wavelength. Although it is most obvious at visible wavelengths, dispersion occurs with all electromagnetic waves.
Related categories• OPTICS AND OPTICAL PHENOMENA
• SPECTRA AND SPECTROSCOPY
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