||The radiance of the night sky is determined by the available light and the scattering properties of the atmosphere (particles and gases). The scattering phase function of the aerosol has a strong dependence on the scattering angle, and depending on the viewing direction different parts of the atmosphere and the ground reflectivity give the most important contribution. The atmospheric radiance cannot be altered by optical instruments. On the other hand the light flux of a distant star increases with the size of the telescope, thus fainter stars become visible. Light extinction, scattering function, atmospheric radiance, ground reflectivity, color effects and others are discussed in detail and a simple theoretical treatment is given.