Sky - Dusk and Dawn

Dusk and Dawn

The intensity of the sky varies greatly over the day and the primary cause differs as well. When the sun is well above the horizon, direct scattering of sunlight (Rayleigh scattering) is the overwhelmingly dominant source of light. However, in twilight, the period of time between sunset and sunrise, the situation is more complicated. Green flashes and green rays are optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise, when a green spot is visible, usually for no more than a second or two, above the sun, or it may resemble a green ray shooting up from the sunset point. Green flashes are a group of phenomena stemming from different causes, most of which occur when there is a temperature inversion (when temperatures increase with altitude rather than the normal decrease in temperature with altitude). Green flashes may be observed from any altitude (even from an aircraft). They usually are seen at an unobstructed horizon, such as over the ocean, but are possible over cloud tops and mountain tops as well. A green flash also may be observed in association with the Moon and bright planets at the horizon, including Venus and Jupiter.

The Earth's shadow is the shadow that the Earth itself casts on its atmosphere, which is often visible from the surface of the Earth, as a dark band in the sky near the horizon. This atmospheric phenomenon can sometimes be seen twice a day, around the times of sunset and sunrise. When the weather conditions and the observer's viewing point permit a clear sight of the horizon, the shadow can be seen as a dark blue or greyish-blue band. Assuming the sky is clear, the Earth's shadow is visible in the opposite half of the sky to the sunset or sunrise, and is seen right above the horizon as a dark blue band. A related phenomenon is the "Belt of Venus" or "anti-twilight arch" (sometimes written as "antitwilight arch"), a pink band that is visible above the dark blue of the Earth's shadow, in the same part of the sky. There is no clear dividing line between the Earth's shadow and the Belt of Venus; one colored band shades into the other in the sky.

Twilight is divided into three segments according to how far the sun is below the horizon in segments of 6°. After sunset the civil twilight sets in, and ends when the sun drops more than 6° below the horizon. This is followed by the nautical twilight, when the sun reaches heights of -6° and -12°, after which comes the astronomical twilight defined as the period from -12° to -18°. When the sun drops more than 18° below the horizon the sky generally attains its minimum brightness.

Several sources can be identified as the source of the intrinsic brightness of the sky, namely airglow, indirect scattering of sunlight, scattering of starlight, and artificial light pollution.

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Famous quotes containing the words dawn and/or dusk:

    Not until just before dawn do people sleep best; not until people get old do they become wise.
    Chinese proverb.

    Mantled in grey, the dusk steals slowly in,
    Crossing the dead, dull fields with footsteps cold.
    Philip Larkin (1922–1986)