Light beam

Light beam

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A light beam or beam of light is a narrow projection of light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 energy radiating from a source into a beam. Sunlight
Sunlight, in the broad sense, is the total frequency spectrum of electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through the Earth's atmosphere, and solar radiation is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon.When the direct solar radiation is not blocked...

 is a natural example of a light beam when filtered through various mediums (cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

s, foliage, window
A window is a transparent or translucent opening in a wall or door that allows the passage of light and, if not closed or sealed, air and sound. Windows are usually glazed or covered in some other transparent or translucent material like float glass. Windows are held in place by frames, which...

s, etc). To artificially produce a light beam, a lamp
Lamp (electrical component)
A lamp is a replaceable component such as an incandescent light bulb, which is designed to produce light from electricity. These components usually have a base of ceramic, metal, glass or plastic, which makes an electrical connection in the socket of a light fixture. This connection may be made...

 and a parabolic reflector
Parabolic reflector
A parabolic reflector is a reflective device used to collect or project energy such as light, sound, or radio waves. Its shape is that of a circular paraboloid, that is, the surface generated by a parabola revolving around its axis...

 is used in many lighting
Lighting or illumination is the deliberate application of light to achieve some practical or aesthetic effect. Lighting includes the use of both artificial light sources such as lamps and light fixtures, as well as natural illumination by capturing daylight...

 devices such as spotlights, car headlights, PAR Cans
Parabolic aluminized reflector light
A parabolic aluminized reflector lamp is a type of electric lamp that is widely used in commercial, residential, and transportation illumination. Usage includes locomotive headlamps, aircraft landing lights, and residential and commercial recessed lights...

 and LED
Light-emitting diode
A light-emitting diode is a semiconductor light source. LEDs are used as indicator lamps in many devices and are increasingly used for other lighting...

 housings. Light from certain types of laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 has the smallest possible beam divergence
Beam divergence
The beam divergence of an electromagnetic beam is an angular measure of the increase in beam diameter or radius with distance from the optical aperture or antenna aperture from which the electromagnetic beam emerges. The term is relevant only in the "far field", away from any focus of the beam...

, thus producing the most parallel light beams possible.

Visible light beams

From the side, a beam of light is only visible if part of the light is scattered by objects: tiny particles like dust
Dust consists of particles in the atmosphere that arise from various sources such as soil dust lifted up by wind , volcanic eruptions, and pollution...

, water droplets (mist
Mist is a phenomenon of small droplets suspended in air. It can occur as part of natural weather or volcanic activity, and is common in cold air above warmer water, in exhaled air in the cold, and in a steam room of a sauna. It can also be created artificially with aerosol canisters if the...

, fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

, rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

), hail
Hail is a form of solid precipitation. It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is referred to as a hail stone. Hail stones on Earth consist mostly of water ice and measure between and in diameter, with the larger stones coming from severe thunderstorms...

, snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

, or smoke
Smoke is a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis, together with the quantity of air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted by-product of fires , but may also be used for pest...

, or larger objects such as bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s. If there are many objects in the light path, then it appears as a continuous beam, but if there are only a few objects, then the light is visible as a few individual bright points. In any case, this scattering of light from a beam, and the resultant visibility of a light beam from the side, is known as the Tyndall effect
Tyndall effect
The Tyndall effect, also known as Tyndall scattering, is light scattering by particles in a colloid or particles in a fine suspension. It is named after the 19th century physicist John Tyndall. It is similar to Rayleigh scattering, in that the intensity of the scattered light depends on the fourth...


Visibility from the side as side effect

  • Flashlight
    A flashlight is a hand-held electric-powered light source. Usually the light source is a small incandescent lightbulb or light-emitting diode...

    , beam directed by hand
  • Headlight, forward beam; the lamp is mounted in a vehicle, or on the forehead of a person, e.g. built into a helmet
    A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from...

  • Lighthouse
    A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

    , beam sweeping around horizontally
  • Searchlight
    A searchlight is an apparatus that combines a bright light source with some form of curved reflector or other optics to project a powerful beam of light of approximately parallel rays in a particular direction, usually constructed so that it can be swiveled about.-Military use:The Royal Navy used...

    , beam directed at something

Visibility from the side as purpose

For the purpose of visibility of light beams from the side, sometimes a haze machine
Haze machine
Haze machines, or haze generators , are effects machines similar to fog machines, designed to produce an unobtrusive, homogeneous clouds suspended in the air intended primarily to make light beams visible or create a subtle diffusion.-Properties:Unlike theatrical fog, which is typically intended to...

 or fog machine
Fog machine
A fog machine or smoke machine is a device which emits a dense vapour that appears similar to fog or smoke. This artificial fog is most commonly used in professional entertainment applications, but smaller, more affordable fog machines are becoming common for personal use. Fog machines can also be...

 is used. The difference between the two is that the fog itself is also a visual effect.

  • Laser lighting display
    Laser lighting display
    A laser lighting display or laser light show involves the use of laser light to entertain an audience. A laser light show may consist only of projected laser beams set to music, or may accompany another form of entertainment, typically a dance concert or other musical performance.Laser light is...

    - Laser
    A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

     beams are often used for visual effects, often in combination with music.
  • Searchlights are often used in advertising
    Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

    , for instance by automobile
    An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

     dealers; the beam of light is visible over a large area, and (at least in theory) interested persons can find the dealer or store by following the beam to its source. This also used to be done for movie
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

    A premiere is generally "a first performance". This can refer to plays, films, television programs, operas, symphonies, ballets and so on. Premieres for theatrical, musical and other cultural presentations can become extravagant affairs, attracting large numbers of socialites and much media...

    s; the waving searchlight beams are still to be seen as a design element in the logo of the 20th Century Fox
    20th Century Fox
    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation — also known as 20th Century Fox, or simply 20th or Fox — is one of the six major American film studios...

     movie studio
    Movie studio
    A movie studio is a term used to describe a major entertainment company or production company that has its own privately owned studio facility or facilities that are used to film movies...


Other applications

  • Optical communication
    Optical communication
    Optical communication is any form of telecommunication that uses light as the transmission medium.An optical communication system consists of a transmitter, which encodes a message into an optical signal, a channel, which carries the signal to its destination, and a receiver, which reproduces the...

    • Infrared Data Association
      Infrared Data Association
      The Infrared Data Association defines physical specifications communications protocol standards for the short-range exchange of data over infrared light, for uses such as personal area networks ....

       (IrDA) standards
    • Infrared remote control
  • Intrusion alarm#Photo-electric beams
  • People counter#Infrared beams
  • Fibre optics
  • Laser pointer
    Laser pointer
    A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

  • Laser sight
  • List of applications for lasers

See also

  • Ray (optics)
    Ray (optics)
    In optics, a ray is an idealized narrow beam of light. Rays are used to model the propagation of light through an optical system, by dividing the real light field up into discrete rays that can be computationally propagated through the system by the techniques of ray tracing. This allows even very...

  • Pencil beam
    Pencil beam
    In optics, a pencil or pencil of rays is a geometric construct used to describe a beam or portion of a beam of electromagnetic radiation or charged particles, typically in the form of a narrow cone or cylinder....

  • Crepuscular rays
    Crepuscular rays
    Crepuscular rays , in atmospheric optics, are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from a single point in the sky. These rays, which stream through gaps in clouds or between other objects, are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions...

  • Laser
    A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

  • Lighthouse
    A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

  • Light pillar
    Light pillar
    A light pillar is a visual phenomenon created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar...

    , atmospheric optical phenomena

External links