Skyscapes

One of the things we do very well, here on the relatively flat and windswept east coast, is big skies. Horizons are not hemmed in by trees or mountains and the wind changes what we see out of the window on a sometimes minute-by-minute basis.

Mackerel sky

A real feature of this January has been an absolutely awesome series of sunrises and sunsets. Most evenings, we are bumping into people, pointing their cameras or phones at the sky, sharing smiles and ‘cracking sunset tonight, isn’t it?’ comments. But why does the sun rise – or set – in the blaze of glory we see?

Sunset on the Ythan estuary

So, here goes with the science bit – and apologies if I don’t get it quite right, I’m a biologist, not a physicist, and I suspect they make up at least some of the maths. Light, as we see it, is made up of different colours. Think of a rainbow, where the sun passing through the rain splits into the spectrum of colours. As the light from the sun hits the Earth’s atmosphere, it gets scattered, by dust, pollution, whatever. During the day, the shorter wavelengths of light show well, so we see blue. But, late or early in the day, as the sun is setting or rising, the light has to travel further round the globe to reach us and more scattering happens. When light is scattered, the short, blue, wavelengths go first but the longer wavelengths persist, so we see oranges and pinks. Like this.

And, with the big skies, we see the light change from horizon to horizon. Yesterday morning, the sun came up in a dawn-pink glow, bathing the whole reserve in warm, rose-gold light.

Sunrise over the sea

Bathed in pink light

Sunrise Forvie centre

Sunrise at Sand loch

And, at the other end of the day, the big skies give us seemingly endless fiery orange sunsets.

Streaky sunset

Orange sunset

It’s a good time to see the shape and form of the local trees. Well, we say trees, but they’re mostly about 10 feet tall and growing at 45 degrees, a reflection of the wind that is an almost daily feature of life here.

Sunset tree

It’s not just the sunsets you can see in the big skies. There was a cracking moonrise two nights ago, as the ‘Wolf moon’ rose fill over the reserve.

Wolf moon

Moonset over sand loch

Or even, if you’re really, really lucky, an auroa show. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the skies!