There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening on the distant horizon – known as the golden hour, daylight turns into beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow.
The phenomenon that gives the sun and sky this golden glow is called “scattering”. It occurs when the sun is low on the horizon as a result of water droplets in the atmosphere forcing the light to change direction. This means the shorter wavelength colours, like violet and blue, are scattered out. Only the longer wavelength colours such as red, orange and yellow are left and this is what we see at sunrise and sunset.
© Serghei Velusceac / Adobe Stock
Does the sky have to be clear to watch?
Clouds can affect our view, depending on the type of clouds at the time. Reflecting the light to the ground, they are almost like a theatre screen when they catch the last orange rays of sunset and the first light of dawn.
Middle and high clouds are associated with the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets. The higher cloud receives sunlight that hasn’t been altered at lower levels. Islands, deserts and arid regions have the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets because the air is less polluted.
How does pollution affect our view?
It’s a myth that dust or pollution can brighten the colours of sunrises and sunsets. Unfortunately, they have the opposite effect. Pollution droplets, such as the ones found in smog in urban areas, are not good “scatterers” of the light.
When they are a uniform size, they can cause a blue cast to the sky, or may result in an odd-coloured sun or moon. This is where the “blue moon” comes from. Usually, however, pollution droplets come in a wide variety of sizes. This means the overall scattering is not strong, resulting in a hazy sheen to daytime skies. The normally vibrant oranges and reds of the sunset can become a pale yellow or pink when they are masked by dust and haze.
Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight?
The old saying, “Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight,” is one that most of us have heard, but what does it actually mean? It actually has a lot of truth in it, as a reddish sky at dusk signals a high-pressure system is coming in, so sunny weather will follow in the morning.
The saying goes back to Biblical times, in the Book of Matthew. The second part of the saying was, “Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning.” A red sunrise signals the high-pressure system, bringing good weather, has already passed, indicating low pressure and a storm may be moving in.
Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?
We always see the sun rising in the east because the earth rotates from west to east on its axis. This means it spins towards the east, making it appear the sun is moving west. The sun and the moon make their way in a westerly direction across the sky.
If you’re facing east, the planet will carry you eastwards as it turns, so anything that lies beyond the eastern horizon will eventually come up into your line of vision.
Where is the best place to watch the sunset/sunrise?
There’s something romantic about watching a sunrise or sunset with a loved one – but where’s the best place to watch in the UK? According to surveys, the most epic place to watch is Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. During the winter and summer solstices, hundreds of people gather there to enjoy the magical experience.
In Scotland, the Isle of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides, is a popular spot to watch the sun appearing over the tranquil waters of the sea loch at Portree. The peak of the Quiraing, the unique pinnacles in the Trotternish Ridge, north of Skye, is another amazing place to watch the sunrise, but you have to spend time getting up there!
How can people prepare to capture the perfect moment?
If you want to capture a photograph of the perfect sunrise or sunset, or if you simply want to be there in time to watch, prepare in advance. Check the time by visiting the online sunrise and sunset calculator and look up your local area.
Be ready to capture the moment at least 20 minutes beforehand, so you can get comfortable, or be prepared with your camera. The weather can affect your experience, so check the weather report too. You don’t need the most expensive professional photographic equipment – the cameras on many of today’s smartphones are just as good as an actual camera!
If you’re just having a romantic evening watching the sunset, it can be pleasant on a warm summer’s evening to take a blanket, picnic basket and some chilled wine, so you can sit and relax while toasting the sun.
Run to the sun!
Fancy experiencing that red sky at night or early in the morning? Here’s our warning… make sure you wear warm clothing, as it can feel chilly when the sun isn’t in the sky!
Dress to impress in our warm branded clothing that is available for men, women and children. For any further information contact us, visit our website or come see us in person – we’re now open Monday to Saturday, with the necessary social distancing measures in place to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.