Sunset Distortion Sequence

December 09, 2008

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Photographer: Chris Kotsiopoulos
Summary Author: Chris Kotsiopoulos   Jim Foster 

The photo above shows a sequence of the setting Sun taken from Ikaria Island, in the Aegean Sea off Greece in July of 2008. Particularly noticeable is the Sun's distortion as it sinks closer to the horizon. The island's crystal clear sky on this summer afternoon and the unobstructed horizon resulted in this spectacular view.

The atmosphere close to the horizon acts to flatten the disk of the Sun or Moon. Since the Sun's disk is about half a degree in diameter, light from the bottom of the Sun passes through more air than at the top of the solar disk. The bottom is thus refracted upwards by a greater amount than at the top, causing obvious flattening. This holds true for all objects in space as they approach our horizon.