We’ve all seen complicated images and drawings that play with our minds, but have you ever come across a real-life optical illusion? If not, today is your chance to do it. We’ve all experienced stunning sunrises in our lives on planet Earth, but have you ever seen one turn green?
Well, if not, you might want to take a trip to Hawaii!
Real life optical illusion in Hawaii
While it’s not something you see every day, lucky visitors to Hawaii may witness a rare phenomenon known as a green flash during sunrise or sunset.
The green flash is a visual trick in which the top edge of the orange sun briefly changes color to green as it sets or rises above the horizon. Valley Island, as well as the entire Hawaiian archipelago, is among the best places in the world to observe this fascinating optical illusion phenomenon.
The green flash is a very brief burst of emerald color that occurs just at the end of a sunset or just as a sunrise begins. This flash looks like a spot, dot, or even a vertical stripe just above the top edge of the sun. It only lasts a few seconds, so the term “flash” is quite appropriate.
It has several other names, including more poetic ones like “Neptune’s Wink.” Seeing the green flash is not common, but the conditions for it are fairly typical in Hawaii. If you’re on Maui and can watch the sunsets for a week or two, your chances of witnessing this unique burst of green over the sun are pretty good!
Why does the sun turn green?
The simplest way to explain the green flash involves something called atmospheric refraction. Refraction means that light from a source, such as in this case the sun, is bent.
When the sun is near the horizon, its light expands into different colors due to its different wavelengths, much like a prism works. Longer wavelength colors, such as red, curve less than shorter wavelength colors. So, red disappears first and blue and violet take longer to disappear. Green is in the middle in terms of wavelength, so it is anticipated to disappear between red and blue/violet.
Sunlight undergoes atmospheric scattering due to molecules such as water vapor and particles in the air, and shorter wavelengths are scattered more. This explains the blue sky when the sun is high.
During sunrise or sunset, sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere, scattering the short-wavelength blue but revealing longer, less dispersed red tones. The final refracted blues and violets often remain hidden, making the mid-wavelength green, more curved than red, the last visible color of the sun, known as the green flash.
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