AuthorTopic: Why does a light object appear lighter in your peripheral vision when it's dark?  (Read 532 times)

Offline knarf

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So, I am not sure I can reproduce it via images, but the steps are:

1) At night, open a window and have a look at the surface of the earth

2) Suppose there's an object that reflects a tiny amount of light

3) When you actually try to focus your eyes at this object, you either don't see anything (depends on the amount of light it reflects) or you can hardly see it

4) When you focus your eyes on something that is 3-10 metres away, you can easily see this object with your ambient vision. Not the details, but it seems that it reflects more light.

Why does it happen?
vision neurophysiology
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edited Feb 18 '15 at 3:32
AliceD♦
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asked Feb 17 '15 at 21:43
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Short answer
Peripheral vision is more light-sensitive than central vision.

Background
When you look directly at an object the image is projected onto the fovea. The fovea has maximal visual acuity (high resolution) and a high density of cones, which are specialized photoreceptors to sense colors. However, cones are not very sensitive to light.

Here is a picture showing the foveal field of view:



If you look at the same object using peripheral vision, the image is formed more eccentrically on the retina. Here, cones are sparse, but high densities of rods are present. Rods do not detect color, but are much more sensitive to light than cones. In fact, they can faithfully detect a single photon! (Webvision) Moreover, many rods converge onto a single ganglion cell, and rod responses are therefore summated. This spatial summation further increases light sensitivity in the periphery, but degrades spatial resolution.

Here is an image on rod and cone distributions on the retina, showing a high cone-density in the fovea and a high rod density more eccentrically:



And here is an image showing the higher light sensitivity of rods over cones:



Hence, peripheral vision is more light sensitive because: (1) there are more rods in the peripheral retina; (2) rods are more light sensitive; and (3) eccentric retinal rod circuitry further amplifies the rod responses. However, color perception and spatial resolution are better developed in the central field of view.


https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/29647/why-does-a-light-object-appear-lighter-in-your-peripheral-vision-when-its-dark
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Offline RE

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The problem here of course is that peripheral vision is mainly Black & White.  You only get full Color when you have plenty of light and look directly at an object.

RE
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Offline knarf

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The problem here of course is that peripheral vision is mainly Black & White.  You only get full Color when you have plenty of light and look directly at an object.

RE

What has been so cool to me, is that looking directly at a star i can't see, I can see in my peripheral vision. This has also been true with many other objects I look directly at. Just think of all we are not aware of in the outer limits.  :multiplespotting:
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