The Fylde Coast is facing just about slap bang due West and with nothing between us and the horizon there’s a perfect view of the setting sun as it dips down behind the horizon and disappears from view.
I’d always wondered, when I lived in land, exactly when sunset was and why they give you such a precise time on the weather forecast. It all becomes clear as you watch the golden red globe quickly pass the radius of the earth on the horizon – sunset is the absolute point where it disappears from view – even though the sky stays red and its light for often a good while longer.
You can see sunset happening in this video clip below.
It’s interesting to watch the journey of the sunset and final daily position of the sun through the year. Imagine standing on the coast at Cleveleys facing the sea. In the depth of winter around the time of the winter solstice (the shortest day) on 21 December it sets to your left at something like 3.40pm. It moves each day through the sky over the sea its highest point at the time of the summer solstice (the longest day) on 21 June, until it is setting far round to your right, almost lined up with Heysham, at going on for about 10.30pm.
The cold, crisp winter from autumn through to spring seems to bring the best of the sunsets, although they can be spectacular all year round, as you can see in this clip of the sunset in September.
But what makes the sky red at sunset?
The light from the sun travels further to reach your eyes as it starts to set and drops in the sky, which means more of the light is reflected and scattered by dust, gas, and particles that we can’t see in the atmosphere.
Light is made up of the colours of the rainbow, and as my physics teacher said ‘blue gets bent best’ which means it’s on the inside of the rainbow with the shortest wavelength. The short wavelength colours of blue and green are easily scattered when they hit the particles in the air, leaving the long wavelength colours of red, orange and yellow to continue travelling in a straight direction that reaches your eye.
The most spectacular colours are seen when the sky contains particles of dust or water, as they reflect light in all directions and bounce out the shorter wavelength colours more effectively, so that you see the reds, pinks and oranges more clearly.
You might remember a few years ago (in May 2010) when a volcano kept erupting in Iceland and it disrupted air flights left, right and centre. At the time, the sunsets over the sea had to be seen to be believed, as they were so exceptionally vibrant. The photo (shown) taken then doesn’t do justice to what you could see!
At sunset, when the sky is particularly clear, you’ll also be able to see the Isle of Man through the edge of the windfarm, far out to sea – which is the two blobs in the photo. It’s the only time that it is visible – when the bright light is at the back of it to pick it out against the horizon.
Of course the sky needs to be clear to see the sunset, and full cloud cover obstructs it from view. A partly cloudy sky can create some stunning shots, especially with dark clouds and the contrast of the red sun behind them.
The windfarms in the Irish Sea, clouds and boats all pose to make good photography subjects, as do silhouetted people on the beach, horseriders and kitesurfers.
Try your hand at a shot or two and then share them with us.
You can post them on one of our Facebook pages, or email them to jane@theRabbitPatch.co.uk and we’ll share them for you.
A famous Fylde Coast sunset over the sea
Sunset through the windfarms