Archive for September 11th, 2013

Why the spectacular colours of the skies at Sunset? Here is the Science behind it.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Vancouver has been experiencing some amazing colours in the sky and clouds lately which has been providing nature lovers with some incredible shots. This was all due to a low pressure system hanging around in the Pacific over the last week or so, the system had produced a few thunderstorms in the area which is not common for us – (ask any Vancouverite and they will tell you that this is a pretty rare occurrence). If you are a fan of us on our Facebook page you will likely have come across some spectacular photographs which were taken by some staff and from other sites online.

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In this blog we are going to swot up on the Science behind the reason why this colourful phenomenon occur, and we will also look for interesting colour formations to look out for during the Fall Season and why they happen.

Why were the clouds so bright Orange and Pink last week?
The clouds that rolled through were pretty intense Thunderstorms and just preceding them the sky was awash with some incredible colours, the most dominant that was noted widely by any observer of these storms were the very bright Pinks, Reds and Oranges that illuminated the towering Comulonimbus towers (the official and fancy term for a thunder cloud). When the storms rolled into our neighbourhood the clouds also had Green and Purples mixed in.
The reason for the difference in colours are to do with the angle of the Sun in relation to the sky and clouds and also the precipitation that is falling within in them.

This was the image taken from one of the staff at home as the Sun was setting through the pouring rain with the storm anchored over the city.

The colours created an incredible bright Orange due to the direction of which the Suns Rays were travelling. As the Sun is very low in the sky it takes the light and rays from the sun longer to reach as there is more distance to travel.

What is the Science behind these colours though?
We can all see colours in a particular area of the light spectrum and ours is a very small degree of what is known in Science the “Electromagnetic Spectrum”. Light that travels short distance and is more compact will show more towards the colour Blue and if they travel further, which means the light is also being stretched – this shifts more towards the colour Red.

Get your Nerd on! Click on this Diagram to see how the Spectrum works.
http://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/ems/visible.html

Why were we seeing Greens, Brown and Purple?
Within the clouds there were also reports of these other colours too, this is basically due to precipitation falling from the storms above us. A good indication that there is Hail falling high above will translate to a Green colour in the clouds as the ice refracts that image to our visibility. Heavy dark colours of Purple, Blues and Greys are usually a sign of heavy and torrential Rains about to fall from above.

Check out this Rainbow, and look where it ends! Right on the Sunset Inn…lol

This is why that many Sunsets can turn the sky very quickly into a very fiery and vivid look with bright Oranges, Pinks and Reds with a wonderful Blue, Green and Turqoise skies. It also explains why the Sky is Blue at the height of daytime as the Sun is so direct the Rays and Light have a shorter distance to travel to reach us.
September is a fantastic time to catch some breathtaking colours in the Sky, and around this time of year as we start to turn towards fall in the city, take a look at the colour of the mountains and the long shadows created by the sunset and of course the imminent changing of the Autumnal leaves.

A typical looking sky at this time of year.

Other cool images to check out as the Sun is beginning to set in the West are the Earths Shadow and Phenomenon called the ‘Belt of Venus’.
As you look East around the same time that the Sun is setting you will clearly see and Arch that is much darker than the rest of the sky beginning from the Horizon of the earth to just a few degrees higher into the sky. As the Sun creeps ever further below the horizon, this dark Arch seems to be getting larger and larger, and then the Night sky seems to take over and the Dark Skies of night prevail. What you are witnessing is the Earths actual Shadow hitting the atmosphere which is makes it apparent that it is the ceiling of our world.

Another cool Phenomenon is the Belt of Venus. Around the same time as the Sun is about to start to set, again look out East in the exact opposite direction of the Setting Sun and just above or along the horizon there is a distinct line of colour that has Pinkish glow, this again is to with the scattering of light in the atmosphere from the Sun, and this light is usually divided by the Earths shadow which has a much darker look to it, itself with a definitive edge.

A great time to witness this is when the Moon is relatively Full and starting to move from the horizon high in the sky, it just makes this natural occurrences that little bit more special.

If you are into Science and anything else related to this then you should check out Science World and/or the H.R Macmillan Space Museum.

Science World www.scienceworld.ca

Space Museum http://www.spacecentre.ca/

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