What Is A Shadow? Curious Science Facts On Light Explained For Kids!

Oluwatosin Michael
Oct 13, 2023 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Oct 30, 2021
Blurry shadows of people walking towards the camera.

Have you ever wondered what a shadow is and how they occur?

Growing up, it is quite common to wonder about the different dark figures that follow us, or that we spot under moonlight or during a sunny day. Scientifically, this is considered a shadow.

It is a wonder how shadows work. This is especially a great wonder for kids who have not started school yet since they haven't explored space science so far.

During the day, we can see shadows more clearly and they are darker compared to at night. We can observe a dark area or shades of ourselves or other opaque objects like trees, chairs, and other things, mostly under a light.

The area where darkness appears at the back of an object is known as a shadow. In cases where light cannot go through or is being blocked by an object, it results in shadows.

Solid things are the only objects that can form shadows under the light. Nothing special, a shadow is a result of when light is being blocked by an opaque object. It is the part that the light does not reach.

In this case, a person can observe their shadow when standing under light or the sun in most cases. We become opaque objects in front of a light or the sun in general.

The shape, structure, and size of a shadow simply depend on the shape, size, and position of the light source. Understanding shadows requires the involvement of science and our common sensual knowledge.

A movement made by an object can be seen in their shadows, as they are their sole reflection. Forming a shadow requires a good source of light to create one.

This can be seen in hand shadow puppet shows, where they form a shadow of different animal shapes and figures, with the help of a good source of light. The direction of the object also plays an important role in the size of the shadow.

In certain cases, our shadows seem stout, slant, or too tall, which mainly depends on the direction we are in and the number of light rays.

The brighter the light is, the darker and clearer a shadow is. However, transparent things do not reflect a shadow as they cannot block light, and light can pass directly through them, unlike other solid objects which can block light.

If you enjoyed this article, you can also visit similar content such as these what is the moon made of and what do astronomers do.

How do you describe a shadow?

We know shadows as a shade of reflection of our image or an object. Shadows, in general terms, are produced through a blocking light.

Shadows can be quite scary at first, especially for kids because they tend to think it's some spirit or ghost following them, not realizing it is theirs. Any object with a shape and design can cast its shadow under a light.

One of the many examples includes when oak trees form or cast a shadow over a river or ground under the sun or moonlight.

However, shadows are more visible under the sun compared to moonlight due to their greater light refraction under the sun. Shadows generally occur when light rays limit on an object, or when the light gets shut off from an object, the shadow appears.

A shadow, often known as an inseparable follower or companion, can be simply described as a dark figure which is cast affixed on a surface by a body or object intercepting light rays or beams from a good source of light.

A part of the dark appearance behind an object, known as a shadow, is the result of blocked rays of light when a particular object gets in its way. The size of a shadow differs depending on the distance of the light source.

However, transparent or translucent objects such as glass do not have a shadow as light can pass through them.

In other words, since they are transparent, they cannot block the light's path to develop a shadow.

If you have noticed, an illuminated opaque object when casting a shadow, in the sunlight has a tinge of a bluish color. This is generally because of the scattering of Rayleigh, which is the same substance or property which causes a blue coloration in the sky.

Shadows may be a very valuable technique for rapidly establishing the all-important focus points of a rendering since by hiding the areas surrounding a focal point, you are essentially framing part of the image.

What is the opposite of a shadow?

The opposite or antonym of a shadow is simply light, glaze, brilliance, illumination, luster, and luminescence. This is because, the word shadow has been categorized as dark or dull, and thereby the result is the opposite of darkness.

Shadows are dark in coloration and it is more like a dark light reflection that cannot be touched or felt. It moves as the object moves and settles as it settles.

Shadows would simply be the opposite of light or brightness. It is pervasive in nature. One fun fact about shadows is that when a lunar eclipse occurs, the moon seems like it loses its glow by going dark.

However, this is simply wrong since the moon is just hanging in the shadow of the Earth for several minutes. Later, the moon glows back to its original look when the Earth moves away from it. This is more like testing our common knowledge rather than being scientific.

What are the two types of shadows?

Generally, shadows can be thought of as absent or non-appearance of light. The area of the surface where a shadow is usually cast has been said to exist in three-dimension, even if the surface appears flat. However, shadows appearing on surfaces have an absence of thickness, which makes them only two-dimensional.

According to science, believe it or not, there are different types or dimensions of shadows, known as self and cast (umbra and penumbra). We can see a cast of two shadows when an eclipse occurs.

In this case, the first one, which consists of a darker center in the shadow of the eclipse, is known as an umbra. The penumbra is the second shadow that gets bigger while its position moves farther from the sun.

This changes the angle of both types of shadows.

Therefore, the dimension or angle of a shadow changes and faints as the light moves away from the object. Science also discovered that the penumbra, which is the outer, light region is shaped similar to a ring, by surrounding the umbra, which is darker.

How do shadows behave?

Objects alone cannot produce a shadow. To make a shadow, they need sunlight, flashlights, fires, and lamps and in certain cases, even moonlight. Shadows behave in unpredictable ways but it has become a common part of our lives. The shape, position, structure, and size of a shadow simply rely on the object's body structure and size.

Shadows behave quite differently in day and night-time. They can be seen mostly during a sunny day since the sunlight is bright.

However, it is rare to see shadows at night since it is a time of darkness. During a full moon, it is possible to spot a shadow. At night, a planet's hemisphere towards its star blocks sunlight and this makes it difficult to receive light, and without light, there's no shadow.

Sometimes, we see two shadows, and this simply implies that the sources of light are in two ways. But if they come from a similar direction, the source of the light's angle striking you is unalike, thereby making two distinct shadows.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy!

If you liked our suggestions for what is a shadow, curious science facts on light explained for kids, then why not take a look at how do neon lights work, fun light science facts simplified for kids or how do ships float, explore science facts that will make you wonder?

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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