When you close your eyes in a perfectly dark place, be it a lightproof photo development room, a deep cavern, or just beneath a snug-fitting sleep mask, you won’t, counter-intuitively, see inky pitch-black darkness.
If you are looking for the What is the name of the colour that our eyes see in the absence of light? The right answer is Eigengrau.
We don’t see perfect darkness even when there are no photons entering our eyes because of a particular protein called rhodopsin in our retinas. This protein, a component of the retina’s rods, is extremely light-sensitive and helps us see even in very low light conditions. Eigengrau is a colour that is not often talked about, but it’s a colour that is seen by everyone every day.
When there is no external light present, the rhodopsin in our eyes undergoes a process known as thermal isomerization, which gives us the impression of seeing a dark grey colour (a process where heat triggers a chemical reaction that causes a molecule to reform into a new and different molecular structure but still have the same atoms).
This process triggers false positives in the rods and creates the illusion of faint light hitting the retina. When you see this faint grey behind your eyelids as you’re drifting off to sleep in a pitch-black room, what you’re really seeing is the side effect of biochemistry playing out across your retina.
As for the name, “eigengrau”, it’s derived from German and literally translates as “own grey”—a fitting term for a faint grey colour specific to the biochemical processes in our eyes.
Importance of Eigengrau
Eigengrau is important because it is the colour that is seen in the absence of light. When there is no light, the human eye sees this colour. It is a dark colour, but it is not black. It is important to know this colour because it can help to understand the way the human eye sees in the dark.
Eigengrau is also important because it is the colour of shadows. Shadows are important because they can help to create the illusion of depth. They can also help to create the illusion of movement. Eigengrau is also the colour of the inside of a cave. This is important because it can help to understand how the human eye sees in the dark. Caves are dark places, and the human eye does not see well in the dark.
The colour of the ocean at night is also Eigengrau. This is important because it can help to understand how the human eye sees in the dark. The ocean is a dark place, and the human eye does not see well in the dark.