This photo captures what’s called an anti-sunset, taken on Feb 10, 2024 around 6 pm by my wife Sandi — a fellow skygazer. It’s an “anti-sunset” because this is the view to the east! The Sun is indeed setting, but it’s behind the camera. Certain combinations of clouds in the east and west, with relatively clear sky overhead, can create this beautiful phenomenon. The clouds in the west, where the Sun was actually setting, were a deep shade of orange-red and transmitted the light to illuminate clouds in the east.

The orange-red light is produced by Rayleigh scattering, which filters out the bluer wavelengths of light and allows the redder colors to pass. This is why most sunsets are red. But with clouds in the east providing a “projector screen” of sorts, the red light also shows up on the other side of the sky.

Sunrises can also provide colorful displays, but they’re typically not as spectacular as sunsets. This is because the composition of the air changes dramatically over the course of the day, leaving more particulates available for scattering light at sunset. At dawn, the air is usually cleaner. See my March 19, 2018 post for a better-than-average sunrise display.

So next time you see a great sunset, turn around and check out the eastern sky. You just might be rewarded with a secondary, and equally beautiful, display.

Next Week in Sky Lights ⇒ Black Clouds

Solar Eclipse by Phobos
Black Clouds

2 comments on “Anti-Sunsets”

  1. That is absolutely beautiful! Kudos to Sandi for catching such a glorious “anti-sunset”. Interesting to know why sunrises are not as visually dramatic!

    1. Sandi says “Thanks! When I saw it I just knew it would make a great photo!” And yes, we’ve seen our share of sunrises and maybe 1 out of 10 compares aesthetically to our sunsets.

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