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Darkness, the polar opposite of brightness, is understood as a lack of illumination or an absence of visible light.Human vision is unable to distinguish color in conditions of either high brightness or high darkness. In conditions with insufficient light levels, color perception ranges from achromatic to ultimately black.The emotional response to darkness has generated metaphorical usages of the term in many cultures.Referring to a time of day, complete darkness occurs when the Sun is more than 18° below the horizon, without the effects of twilight on the night sky.

In terms of physics, an object is said to be dark when it absorbs photons, causing it to appear dim compared to other objects. For example, matte black paint does not reflect much visible light and appears dark, whereas white paint reflects lots of light and appears bright. For more information see color. An object may appear dark, but it may be bright at a frequency that humans cannot perceive.One scientific measure of darkness is the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, which indicates the night sky’s and stars’ brightness at a particular location, and the observability of celestial objects at that location. (See also: Sky brightness)

A dark area has limited light sources, making things hard to see. Exposure to alternating light and darkness (night and day) has caused several evolutionary adaptations to darkness. When a vertebrate, like a human, enters a dark area, its pupils dilate, allowing more light to enter the eye and improving night vision. Also, the light detecting cells in the human eye (rods and cones) will regenerate more unbleached rhodopsin when adapting to darkness.

Artists use darkness to emphasize and contrast the presence of light. Darkness can be used as a counterpoint to areas of lightness to create leading lines and voids. Such shapes draw the eye around areas of the painting. Shadows add depth and perspective to a painting. See chiaroscuro for a discussion of the uses of such contrasts in visual media.

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