By Faith W.
You see it. Whether you’re out for an evening stroll or just arriving home after a long day, you see it. The sun that provided light and warmth all day finally rests. As it sets, you may begin to wonder what causes the radiant colors before your eyes.
Time to unlock the stored knowledge from physics class. The wavelengths of blue and violet are significantly shorter than red and orange on the electromagnetic spectrum. Considering the curvature of the planet, the sun’s rays have to travel a greater distance when it sets than when it is overhead midday. Over the long distance, the atmosphere scatters the shorter wavelengths of blue leaving behind the vibrant red-orange wavelengths that are now synonymous with sunsets.
On a less scientific note, there is some hidden poetry in the fleeting beauty of the sun hiding behind the horizon. Similarly to the moon, phone cameras can’t quite capture the vision of sunsets, and yet, we try anyway. Something almost guaranteed to occur daily refuses to be confined to something we carry with us daily.
If you are interested, I highly recommend John Green’s podcast episode about sunsets on his show “The Anthropocene Reviewed.”
Like many things in this strange world, sunsets, a phenomenon that many people don’t understand, leave us feeling awed and inspired. Science—there’s an explanation for everything.