Rectangular Sun

April 19, 2003


Provided by: Lacey Rohr
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Lacey Rohr

The above photo was taken in southern California and shows a rectangular-shaped Sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. The distortion of the Sun results from atmospheric refraction by the curved atmosphere. In essence, objects near the horizon are "pushed up." The closer to the horizon, the greater the effect, and so the lower portion of the Sun is pushed upwards more than the upper portion, producing the flattened appearance.

The apricot color of the sky results from scattering -- the longer wavelengths of visible light aren't scattered as much as the shorter wavelengths. This greater path-length of sunlight, when the Sun is near the horizon, extinguishes the shorter wavelength blue and violet colors.

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