Clouds In a Fiery Sunset

February 18, 2022

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Photographer: Teresa Molinaro

Summary Authors: Teresa Molinaro; Cadan Cummings

Sunrise and sunset are beautiful times of the day to photograph the gradually changing colors and clouds of our sky. This is embodied by the photo above from the province of Palermo, Sicily on the evening of July 4, 2021, when the clouds appeared to be set ablaze in a fiery red hue. At around 9pm local time, the sky was suddenly tinged with color that quickly changed from orange to red. The reason the sky at sunrise and sunset is so vibrantly colored is due to light scattering. As light passes through the atmosphere, its direction changes when it interacts with gases and small molecules on the way to our eyes. Longer wavelengths of light (red and orange) are not as affected by scatter as shorter wavelength (blue and violet) light. When the Sun angle is low on the horizon, the sunlight must pass through comparably more atmosphere, which causes increased scattering of blue and violet spectra. At sunset and sunrise, this unequal scattering is why we see mainly red, orange, and yellow light on the horizon.

Photo details: Nikon D3400, 70 mm lens, 1/5 second exposure, f/4.5, ISO-800,

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