Breakdown: The science behind sunsets

Breakdown: The science behind sunsets

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Have you ever wondered why sometimes you see an amazing sunset and other times it is totally underwhelming? There's actually science behind that mix of red and oranges in your evening sky.

The sunset colors happen in a similar way to the blue sky color in the afternoon. If you need a refresher on why the sky is blue, we explained it here.

Compared to when the sun is overhead at noon, the sun's rays are traveling through more atmosphere during sunset. On the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, blue and violet have shorter wavelengths and red and orange have longer wavelengths. The distance of the sun's rays to the surface is so great that most of the smaller blue wavelengths get scattered out and only the longer red and orange wavelengths remain. This is why we predominately see these colors during sunset.

Some of the best sunsets are viewed in the Fall and Winter when there is less moisture in the air. Also, we usually see phenomenal sunsets when there are high clouds, since these clouds act as a projection screen for the colors.

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