sunset over lake

The science and symbolism behind sunsets

Today’s blog post comes from Sara Moore, a Discovery student at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

Have you ever wondered what makes a sunset so special?

What gives them their beautiful colours?

Understanding the science

So how are sunsets created?

Light beams from the sun have different sizes, called wavelengths, each with their own colour.

sunset over dock
Driftwood Provincial Park. Photo: Ashton Legris

The colours red, orange, and yellow have longer wavelengths, so they can travel farther through our atmosphere.

When the beams of light reach our atmosphere, they meet molecules. These could be the water molecules in our atmosphere, but can include little dust particles.

These molecules bounce the light back and forth, which is referred to as scattering.

The longer the wavelength is, the more blue light that is scattered by the beam of light.

When the sun is setting, its light must travel through the thickest part of the atmosphere. This causes more scattering to occur. As a result, longer wavelengths are reflected (red, orange, and yellow), creating beautiful colours in the sky.

Appreciating the beauty of sunsets

In addition to being scientifically fascinating, sunsets are visually pleasing!

One of the most beloved activities at Ontario Parks is catching the sun sets — watching the beautiful colours blend across the sky, tinting gossamer clouds pink and purple.

But how does this make you feel?

sunset over lake
Driftwood Provincial Park. Photo: Rebecca Rogge

Experiencing nature has been scientifically proven to benefit our health by lowering our stress and boosting well-being.

There are many ways that experiencing nature can be incorporated into your life, and taking time to admire a sunset is one of them.

The next time you’re driving home or looking out the window and see a sunset, stop to think about how seeing that sunset makes you feel.

Understanding the symbols

Sunsets can also be quite symbolic.

Typically, our days are busy. Seeing a beautiful sunset while driving home or sitting outside with your family is a reminder that the day is done.

But sunsets can also be a symbol for almost anything else! It could represent a fresh start or connect you to a memory of a loved one who has passed.

Sunset over lake
Lake St. Peter Provincial Park

Have you ever thought of what sunsets symbolize to you?

The next time you see a sunset, whether you’re intentionally watching it or happen to notice it while looking out your window, take a moment to stop and reflect.

Think about what causes the sunset to look that way, how it makes you feel to see that sunset, and what that sunset means to you.

Looking for a beautiful sunset in parks?

Check out this blog for some suggestions.