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I have always read that light is reflected by a mirror. My question is how does reflection take place on a microscopic level? A mirror is composed of atoms and electrons revolving around the nucleus. So where does the photon strike and go?

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  • $\begingroup$ While the checked answer is classically electrodynakically ok, you might profit by reading my answer to a diffraction question in a quantum mechanical format. Reflection could be analyzed in a similar way : physics.stackexchange.com/questions/188651/… $\endgroup$ – anna v Jun 12 '15 at 11:53
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A high level description.

In the case of reflection at a metallic interface the electric field of the photon forces the electrons in the metal to oscillate. The oscillation means that the electrons are being forced at the same frequency as the photons. Thus as the electrons in the metal oscillate they begin to emit light in response. The frequency, polarisation and phase of the emission causes interference. On a macroscopic level it looks identical to a photon bouncing off the metal surface. Pretty remarkable.

This is covered my most university level Optics books for example, http://www.amazon.com/Optics-4th-Edition-Eugene-Hecht/dp/0805385665.

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