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Anatomy of a Sunset

By Lacy Hilliard
Freelance writer/photographer
The silhouette cast by the setting sun paints everything it touches in abstract perfection. To gaze upon the sky at sunset is to feel the presence of something larger than ourselves. From fiery red to gentle purple, the discovery of the history behind the setting sun is fascinating.
Native Americans regarded sunset as the most sacred of hours. Many ceremonies were set to be performed at this blessed hour. Taoism teaches that sunset is the time when one is most likely to achieve “Zen” or absolute enlightenment. The Aztecs believed that sunset brought a blessing of fertility.
The colors of the sunset are determined be the wavelength of light provided by the sun and the disbursement of molecules in the atmosphere. Red and orange are the most common colors experienced at sunset because they have the longest wavelengths of any visible light. The intensity of these colors is determined by the amount of molecular activity taking place in the atmosphere; more molecular activity works to scatter the weakest wavelengths (blue and violet) away from our eyes and intensify the orange and red hues, less activity makes for a clearer violet tinted sunset.
An appreciation for the sunset is something human beings have shared from the beginning of time. In a world where it often seems difficult to agree on anything, the setting of the sun proves that beauty is universal.