The Palettes of Sunset

Weather permitting, at the end of the day I like to wind down out on my south deck enjoying our beautiful Arizona sunsets. For your edification and entertainment, the slide show above features three sunsets from last year. Just click on the navigation buttons to change between the three slides.

You’ll see red, gold, and violet palettes. It never ceases to amaze me how many colors can result from the same basic constituents: yellow-white light from the Sun, an atmosphere that’s 78.09% nitrogen, and clouds made of water droplets.

The physics at work generating all those colors include: refraction, diffraction, interference, reflection, and scattering. These are the four primary wave phenomena applicable to light. I say “four” because scattering is actually a type of bulk reflection. So Mother Nature needs only 3 components and 4 laws to create these beautiful displays. This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Think about what a skilled artist can do with 3 colors and 4 brushes.

There’s a folder on my hard drive labeled “sunsets” and I continually add new photos. Every once in awhile I’ll skip the science lesson and just share some of these beautiful images. You have my word that these photos are minimally processed. Sure, I’ll crop them, and maybe boost the contrast slightly — but I never touch the color levels. Don’t need to. Mother Nature takes care of that for me.

If you’re interested in understanding the science behind all these colors, see the following Sky Lights posts:

Otherwise, just enjoy the show. Sometimes Sky Lights is all about pretty pictures.

Next Week in Sky Lights ⇒ Talking to ET

Grand Alignment Photo
Q&A: Talking to ET