Colour might seem like an inherent property of matter, but it’s actually the result of a process – specifically, how matter interacts with light. In an atom, the electrons orbiting the nucleus absorb the incoming light energy, and jump into higher energy levels.
These so-called ‘excited states’ are unstable, and in returning to their original state, the electrons re-emit certain wavelengths of light, which we see as a specific colour. But a solitary electron – or any subatomic particle – simply mops up the incoming light energy, and thus lacks any specific colour.
- What shape are subatomic particles?
- What’s the smallest particle?
- What’s the most abundant particle in the Universe?
- Is there anything smaller than a quark?