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Spectacular Sunsets Courtesy of Chile Volcano

Chile Ash Sunset Mt Wellington


(Image credit: Mike Rowe/

Since Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano began erupting on June 4, it has spewed huge plumes of ash and other particles and gas into Earth's atmosphere. Air currents have moved these particles across the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, wreaking havoc on air travel in Australia and New Zealand.

But these diffuse plumes are also treating Southern Hemisphere denizens to stunning sunsets and sunrises by scattering and refracting incoming sunlight in a way that favors the transmission of light closer to the red end of the spectrum.

This phenomenon can be seen in this image of sunset from New Zealand's Mt. Wellington.

Chile Ash Sunset Christchurch


(Image credit: Geoff Trotter/

This photograph shows sunset over Christchurch, New Zealand on June 14. Photographer Geoff Trotter called it an "amazing sunset."

Chile Ash Sunset New Zealand


(Image credit: Kevin Thomson/

The same physics that underlies the spectacularly red sunsets over New Zealand such as this one also explains why the sky is blue. Normally, molecules in the air refract and scatter light in such a way that blue is the favored wavelength that makes it through to our eyes on the surface.

New Zealand Sunset Ash


(Image credit: Peter Shanks/

Photographer Peter Shanks, who snapped this photo in Australia on June 12, called the colored sunsets "one of the brightest and most vibrant sunsets seen in a long time."

Ash Sky Australia


(Image credit: Peter Shanks/

The tinges of red and orange can be seen lightly in this photo taken in Australia as the sun hovers over the horizon.

The conditions that produce these spectacular sunsets are projected to last for some time.

Andrea Thompson
Andrea graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in 2004 and a Master's in the same subject in 2006. She attended the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University and graduated with a Master of Arts in 2006.