The anatomy of a sunset

Greetings loyal followers!

Apologies for the delay of late, things have been a touch manic here of late due to work mainly but also I’m back sailing again but the weather has been awful and days are cancelled last-minute, so I never know when I’m going out. Sorry. Also, if you think things are getting back to normal (roughly a weekly post) think again, as I’m not near my PC next weekend, so it will be another week or so after that.

However, on the bright side, I have downloaded my SD card to the PC (and backed it up to DVD of course) so I have new material. Yay! Around 1100 images to be precise.

In the first instance, and because they were the earliest images on the card, I thought I may show you the life of a sunset and explain the science behind the colours in it. My god! The man’s a scientist. Nope, I’m afraid it’s all gathered from websites as I can’t explain things as well as they can. Anyway, here goes…

Firstly, you need some nicely textured clouds at the right level and a window pointing the right way, as I did. This particular evening, I could see that there was some cirrus (my favourite type of cloud) mixed with open cell or “popcorn” clouds. The wind up at that level was also fairly strong it would appear, as the were trails leading away from the uppermost clouds which were castings shadows.

From my bedroom, I could see that the clouds had promise at this point

From my bedroom, I could see that the clouds had promise at this point

Here, in portrait aspect, you can see that the shadows are a touch more distinct and the colour is getting a little deeper, although it is still predominantly orange. At this stage, I was stood on a little step straining to get the right angle for the picture!

A little darker, a little more orange and a few more shadows

A little darker, a little more orange and a few more shadows

Now the colours are deep still, although the best is yet to come. However, here comes the science bit explaining the change in colours; as a ray of white sunlight travels through the atmosphere to my little eye, some of the colours are scattered out of the beam by air molecules and particles, changing the final colour of the beam I see (or the camera sees!). Because the shorter wavelength components, such as blue and green, scatter more strongly, these colours are pretty much removed from the beam.

Although this is slightly underexposed, it is how the cloud appeared. Loving those shadows...miles and miles long

Although this is slightly underexposed, it is how the cloud appeared. Loving those shadows…miles and miles long

At sunset, when the path through the atmosphere is longer due to the curvature of the earth, the blue and green components are removed almost completely leaving the longer wavelength orange and red you can see in the pictures. The remaining reddened sunlight can then be scattered by cloud droplets and other relatively large particles to light up the horizon red and orange; near where I live you get some very red sunsets and using this explanation I can only guess that the refinery at Milford Haven may assist in pushing out these particles. This also explains why they are longer and deeper sunset colours when volcanoes erupt and scatter ash. These particles account for making gorgeous reds and pinks like this….

Just at the point where colour is starting to fade. I can't help but look at sunsets like this; doesn't it look like someone got a big paintbrush and just painted this with those trailing lines?

Just at the point where colour is starting to fade. I can’t help but look at sunsets like this; doesn’t it look like someone got a big paintbrush and just painted this with those trailing lines?

Pretty complicated eh? Mind you, I find it fascinating to be honest. To think that some guy thousands of miles away, maybe in another country, is seeing the sun as bright light that is then ending up in my camera as pink or red. Sometimes, we take these things for granted and I find it amazing that people pass things like this by day in and day out. Even if I’m not taking pictures for the blog, I always look at the sunsets or sunrises, if I’m up early enough…I can’t help but try and work all the science out. Hope I haven’t bored you!

Lastly, a bit of a random picture. I found these fungi in a wood not so far from the house. They look like red roses but I couldn’t get any closer to have a proper look. Can anyone tell me what they are?

Random fungi. I can't quite understand the bright red aspect of these, unless it's to attract or deter animals or something?

Random fungi. I can’t quite understand the bright red aspect of these, unless it’s to attract or deter animals or something?

Well, then. It’s good to be back and there are some nice pictures coming your way I assure you, so keep popping back when you get the email, I really appreciate it. Next time, I promise not to be all scientific!

See you in a couple of weeks.

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