Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Reflection and Absorption of Light

Figure from experiment 23 from Earth Science with Vernier


Would you feel cooler wearing a light or dark-colored shirt on a hot, sunny day? The color and texture of an object influences how much radiant energy from the sun it will absorb or reflect. Every color reflects a certain amount of light while absorbing the rest as heat energy. The amount of reflected light is called the color’s light reflectance value. Dark colors with low light reflectance values tend to reflect little light while absorbing lots of heat energy, whereas light colors with high reflectance values reflect a lot of light and absorb little energy. People in warm, sunny climates are more likely to purchase light-colored cars since they don’t heat up as quickly as dark-colored ones. Many house paints come with a predetermined light reflectance value to guide consumers when making color choices for their homes. Since the Earth’s surface is made of many colors and textures, it is heated unevenly. Snow, ice, and clouds reflect a lot of energy back into space while green forests and vegetated lands absorb energy.

In this experiment, you will investigate the relationship between the percent reflectivity of various colors and the temperature change due to energy absorption. You will measure the amount of light reflected from paper of various colors using a Light Sensor and calculate percent reflectivity. You will also measure the temperature change of the air under the paper due to energy absorption by the paper using a Temperature Probe.


In this experiment, you will

  • Use a Light Sensor to measure the amount of reflected light.
  • Calculate percent reflectivity of various colored paper.
  • Use a Temperature Probe to measure the energy absorbed from light.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Earth Science with Vernier »

Earth Science with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Introduction to Data Collection
2Exploring Magnetism
3Where IS North?
4Searching for Iron Ore
5Sea Floor Spreading
6Soil pH
7Soil Salinity
8Soil and Acid Rain
9Soil Temperature
13Total Dissolved Solids
14Water Treatment
15Salinity of Ocean Water
16Acid Rain and Its Effect on Surface Water
17Freezing of Ocean Water
19Mapping the Ocean Floor
20Are All Sunglasses Created Equal?
21Comparing Sunscreens
22UV Light and Clothing
23Reflection and Absorption of Light
24The Greenhouse Effect
25Land and Sea Breezes
26Relative Humidity
27Dew Point
28Wind Chill
29Seasons and Angle of Insolation
30Fossil Fuels
31Solar Homes
32Photovoltaic Cells
33Wind Power
P1Air Temperature
P2Air Temperature and Relative Humidity
P3Ground Temperature
P4Barometric Pressure
P5Measuring Particulates
P6Weather Stations

Experiment 23 from Earth Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Earth Science with Vernier</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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Dev Reference: VST0124

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