Common optical phenomena are often due to the interaction of light from the sun or moon with the atmosphere, clouds, water, or dust and other particulates. One common example would be the rainbow, when light from the sun is reflected off water droplets in rain as it falls to the ground. Others, such as the green flash, are rare due to atmospheric conditions. Some, such as instances of Fata morgana, are commonplace only in certain locations.
Other phenomena are simply interesting aspects of optics, or optical effects. The colors generated by a prism are often shown in classrooms for instance.
A list of optical phenomena
Entopic phenomena include optical phenomena arising from the structures of the eye.
Some optical illusions can be explained as observations of unusual optical phenomena.
Atmospheric optical phenomena
- Alexander's band, the dark region between the two bows of a double rainbow.
- anticrepuscular rays
- Auroral light (northern and southern lights, aurora borealis and aurora australis)
- Belt of Venus
- crepuscular rays
- Elves 
- Glories (also known as Brocken's Specter or Specter of the Brocken)
- the Green ray
- Halos, of Sun or Moon, including sun dogs
- Sprites 
Other optical phenomena
- asterism, star gems such as star sapphire or star ruby.
- Aventurescence, also called the Schiller effect, spangled gems such as aventurine quartz and sunstone.
- The Camera obscura
- Chatoyancy, cat's eye gems such as chrysoberyl cat's eye or aquamarine cat's eye
- Chromatic polarization
- Diffraction, the apparent bending and spreading of light waves when they meet an obstruction.
- Double refraction
- The Double-slit experiment
- fluorescence, also called luminescence or photoluminescence.
- metamerism as of alexandrite
- pleochroism gems or crystals which seem many-colored
- Rayleigh scattering (Why the sky is blue, sunsets are red, clouds are white, and associated phenomena)
- Synchrotron radiation
- The separation of light into colors by a prism
- The Zeeman effect
- Thomson Scattering
- Total internal reflection
- The Umov effect
- Polarized light-related phenomena such as double refraction, or Haidinger's brush
- The ability of light to travel through space or through a vacuum.
- Main article: Entoptic phenomenon
- Diffraction of light through the eye lashes
- Haidinger's brush
- Monocular diplopia (or polyplopia) from reflections at boundaries between the various ocular media
- Phosphenes from stimulation other than by light (e.g., mechanical, electrical) of the rod cells and cones of the eye or of other neurons of the visual system
- Main article: optical illusion
- The unusually large size and rich color of the Moon as it rises and sets
There are many phenomena which result from either the particle or the wave nature of light. Some are quite subtle and observable only by precise measurement using scientific instruments. One famous observation was of the bending of light from a star by the Sun during a solar eclipse. This demonstrated that space is curved. See Theory of relativity.
Observations of some phenomena such as the photoelectric effect, the flow of electric current in a material or through a vacuum (as in a photocell) when the material is exposed to light, led to advances in science, as they could not be easily explained by existing theory.
Some phenomena are still unexplained, and they could very possibly be some kind of optical phenomena. Some consider many of these "mysteries" to be simply local tourist attractions not worthy of investigation.
- Atmospheric Optics Reference site
- SpaceW Site for reporting Aurora activity data
- Spaceweather.com Official NASA site with many photos
- Astronomy in New Zealand Many atmospheric optical effect photos and descriptions
- Thomas D. Rossing and Christopher J. Chiaverina, Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts, Springer, New York, 1999, hardback, ISBN 0-387-98827-0
- Robert Greenler, Rainbows, Halos, and Glories, Elton-Wolf Publishing, 1999, hardback, ISBN 0-897-16926-3
- Polarized Light in Nature, G. P. Können, Translated by G. A. Beerling, Cambridge University Press, 1985, hardcover, ISBN 0-521-25862-6
- John Naylor "Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide", CUP, 2002, ISBN 0-521-80925-8
- Abenteuer im Erdschatten (German).