Planet Talk


I love a good sunset. And lately, there have been plenty of beautiful sunsets lighting up the sky in California. After doing a little research, I discovered that sunsets in California are significantly better during winter. But why…?

Exhibit A

As Chuck McPartlin of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit has found out, the beautiful sunsets are a result of the Earth’s tilt (of 23.5 degrees). During winters in the northern hemisphere, the sun is moving relatively faster and we are 3% closer. This difference, although subtle, goes a long way. It causes winter twilight to last longer, allowing for beautiful sunsets. The colors themselves are caused by the atmosphere. As the sun drops in the sky, it passes through more layers of the atmosphere, some of which are filled with dust and water particles. These particles flooding the atmosphere act as some sort of a prism, reflecting beautiful hues of red, orange, purple, and pink.

Exhibit B

Additionally, inversion layers on the horizon further the glamorous effect of the sun setting. An inversion layer is a region where warmer air lies “trapped” directly under a cooler layer of air. These layers bend the light, causing a ripple halo effect, adding to a sunset that is already beautiful. Now, when I open my social media platforms, I see hundreds of sunset photos on every story, each with slight variance based on location!


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