Thursday, February 11, 2010

Flying Through a Sunset

One thing about flying during sunset is that you don't get the rich colors that you would on the ground.  Here's the Wikipedia refresher on the physics of a sunset:
The intense red and orange hues of the sky at sunrise and sunset are mainly caused by scattering of sunlight by dust particles, soot particles, other solid aerosols, and liquid aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere.  These enhanced red and orange colors at sunrise and sunset are mathematically explained by the Mie theory or the discrete dipole approximation.

Basically, you need a low angle of sun with whole lot of atmosphere and dust to get the vibrant colors of a sunset.  Up in an airplane, you have much less atmosphere and hardly any particles, so sunsets are basically a change from light to dark.  But if you look closely, you can see the sunset on the ground.

During the golden hour before sunset, I caught this glowing patch of sand under the clouds.



Isn't that amazing? Almost like a maelstrom.  Here's a closer look:



And then the sunset begins on the ground.  The glowing reds and orange reflect off the ground.





Pretty awesome even from the air.

There is one thing that you can see if you are flying at high altitudes.  If you look closely, you can see the angle of shadow of the earth.



Here, the darkness above the ground grows from the left to the right.  That's the shadow of the earth!  I've been on a plane so much lately, here's another sunset from the other side.



I guess you do have sunsets from an airplane.

2 comments :

Asianmommy said...

Very pretty!

kbreints said...

wow! What an awesome view point I have never had for the sunset! just beautiful!

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