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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Iridescence in soap bubbles
A female Golden Stag Beetle has a highly iridescent shell
The iridescence of the Blue Morpho butterfly wings

Iridescence (also known as goniochromism) is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change colour as the angle of view changes. Iridescence may be seen commonly in soap bubbles, butterfly wings and sea shells.



Iridescence is an optical phenomenon of surfaces in which hue changes in correspondence with the angle from which a surface is viewed.

Iridescence is caused by multiple reflections from multi-layered, semi-transparent surfaces in which phase shift and interference of the reflections modulates the incident light (by amplifying or attenuating some frequencies more than others). This process is the functional analog of selective wavelength attenuation as seen with the Fabry-Pérot interferometer.


The word iridescence is derived in part from the Greek word iris (pl. irides), meaning "rainbow", which in turn derives from the goddess Iris of Greek mythology, who is the personification of the rainbow and acted as a messenger of the gods. Goniochromism is derived from the Greek words gonia, which means angle, and chroma, which means color.


Conventional photography only records the specific effect of iridescence, just as it only captures the effect of two dimensions; however, iridescence can be reproduced by holography (which includes phase information).


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