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The Green Flash: The Best Reason to Collect Sunsets


This optical phenomenon reminds us that nature is a domain of mystery and beauty.

The rotation of the earth offers two free shows daily: dawn and sunset. As in the theater, each performance is unique. The number of horizons is infinite. By varying the position from which it is observed by just a few centimeters, the stage set of buildings, mountains and lawns will change. The alteration of atmospheric conditions, the quantity and the shape of the clouds, and the transparency of the air guarantee that the sun will have a different birth and death each time. These are more than enough reasons to collect sunsets and sunrises. But there is one more reason. There is an optical phenomenon known as the green ray that occurs from time to time, almost always on an ocean horizon. Sometimes, when the sun has just set or is about to emerge from the water, the glimmer of a green ray can be seen on the horizon, bigger than the sun itself.

It happens all over the world due to the contrast between the warm water and the colder air. However, certain conditions favor its appearance. It is easier to see it in summer or in winter, when the temperature rises after a cold day, and at high latitudes. It usually lasts just a few seconds, but it has been seen to last for a few minutes at the poles.

In his novel The Green Ray, Jules Verne describes it as “a marvelous green, a green that no painter has managed to have on his palette, a green that nature has not produced, not even in the many shades of vegetables or the color of the cleanest seas. If there is a green in heaven, it cannot be any other than this green, which is, without a doubt, the green of hope.” He adds a legend to this description, which swears that whoever sees the green ray, will not be deceived again by affairs of the heart. It says that its appearance destroys illusions and lies, and whoever sees it at least once will be able to clearly see their own heart and that of others.

If this legend is not true, its poetic truth is enough of a motive to collect sunsets and hope to one day observe the green ray.

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