Sunsets Reflect the Glory of Their Creator
NO MATTER how often we see a beautiful sunset, we always appreciate the glorious spectacle. Clouds scattered on the horizon add to the splendor as the setting sun bathes them in colorful splashes of violet, red, orange, pink, and yellow.
Why does the sky take on a reddish glow during sunset, when earlier in the day it is a bluish color? It has to do with the sun’s light passing through the atmosphere that surrounds our earth for about a hundred miles up. This air blanket supplies the oxygen we breathe. It also contains other gases, such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, and dust particles as well.
When sunlight passes through this atmosphere, it strikes these air molecules and dust particles, and the light tends to scatter. The colors that make up sunlight travel in “waves,” and the shorter the wavelength of a color, the more it scatters when it strikes the particles in the air. Blue light has a short wavelength and scatters more. Red light has a long wavelength and scatters less.
On a clear day with the sun well above the horizon, the sky looks blue because the shorter blue waves are scattered by the air and are reflected back to earth from all parts of the sky. But when the sun drops toward the horizon at evening, its light travels through many additional miles of the earth’s atmosphere to reach us. Thus it strikes many more air molecules and dust particles than when the sun is overhead. The shorter blue rays are blocked and absorbed in the atmosphere before they can reach our eyes. The longer red rays penetrate the atmosphere to reach us, causing the colors we see at sunset and at sunrise.
When there is more dust in the atmosphere, such as from volcanic action, sunsets are even more colorful. As an example, when the Krakatau volcano near Java exploded in 1883, vast quantities of dust spewed miles into the atmosphere. The New Encyclopædia Britannica notes the result: “The fine dust drifted several times around the Earth, causing spectacular red sunsets throughout the following year.”
The gorgeous sunsets should make us appreciate the Creator of the sun, the earth, and our atmosphere, which make possible such glorious displays. We should feel as did the Bible writers who wrote: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Psalm 19:1; Revelation 4:11.
[Picture Credit Line on page 16]
G. Ludwig/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service