Distorted Sun Sequence from Iraklion, Greece

May 08, 2009


Photographer: Domenico Licchelli
Summary Author: Domenico Licchelli; Jim Foster

The photo sequence above shows the setting Sun captured near Iraklion, Greece, on the island of Crete, in March of 2006. When the Sun reclines on or very near the horizon, the atmosphere acts to flatten the solar disk. Sunlight coming from the bottom portion of the Sun passes through slightly more of our atmosphere than does the sunlight coming from the top side of the Sun. In effect, the atmosphere is more dense; therefore, sunlight at the bottom of the Sun is refracted upwards a greater amount than occurs at the top. This is, of course, true for the Moon and for all objects as they approach the horizon. It should be noted that localized atmospheric stratification can result in the Sun appearing fragmented and distorted. Since the index of refraction varies with height above the surface, differences in water vapor and or strong temperature gradients enable the Sun to take on rather bizarre shapes.