Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

News

The Red Sand Fire Sun, Explained

LAist relies on your reader support, not paywalls.
Freely accessible local news is vital. Please power our reporters and help keep us independent with a donation today.

The tragic Sand Fire in Santa Clarita, which broke out on Friday and has rapidly spread, produced a surreal sky over Los Angeles this weekend. The science behind the sky's appearance is pretty simple: "As sunlight passes through the Earth's atmosphere, atmospheric debris—dust and ash, for example—blocks light... When the sun is close to the horizon, at sunrise or sunset, light has more atmosphere to pass through, and the extra debris blocks out more of the short-wavelength colors, so the sun, sky and clouds turn various shades of red and orange."

Heavy smoke, as seen with the sand fire, blocked the blue end of the spectrum over the weekend, transforming the sun—to the onlooker—into an eerie red dot. During last years wildfires in Canada, the same thing occurred, and Rich Talcott of Astronomy Magazine explained it was safe to look at the filtered sunshine for a short period of time, noting it was "20, 30 percent of what a normal sun would be on a clear day."

Below, a glimpse at what L.A. looked like as the fire burned around 35-miles away:

Support for LAist comes from

Support for LAist comes from
Massive plumes of smoke fill skies over northern LA as #SandFire spreads to 2,500 acres https://t.co/gKK1dR1GMJhttps://t.co/yDtdiaxw5I

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) July 23, 2016

Not everyone on social media seemed to be aware that the sky was the result of a fire that scorched the earth, killed at least one person, and took the homes of 18 and counting—"Beautiful!" one Fox LA anchor declared: