How do we see the sun?


The natural cycle of a day has shaped and moulded mankind since the beginning of time; these cycles are an inextricable part of our selves, all that we are. See Health and Medicine). If you have ever waited peacefully, in the serene deep dark wilderness, far from modern lights, to see the sun rise and leave night behind, you have undoubtably been witness to an astonishing sensorial experience of unending subtle changes of light as night is transformed into day.

In the dark –

when absolute darkness is experienced, in its perfection, untouched – is it not possible to distinguish clear outlines: we see no colours, no hues, shapes or forms, and have not spacial awareness or sensations, everything appears solid black, absolutely and completely black. It is not possible to orient oneself in such obscurity. The stars in the distance do not shine through, only the shimmer of the moon can offer relief from the darkness.

Shortly before dawn changes happen gradually: first the world lights up with shades of gray, slowly contours and outlines take shape as the impenetrable darkness becomes two-dimensional. Distinct forms are now perceptible, but distances are still blurred. As the world becomes lighter and brighter, colours take on a brilliance and radiance not visible at any other time of the day.

Then the sun rises: a sea of bright lustrous light sets the world ablaze. It is no surprize that many poets have been inspired and deeply moved by profound experiences between dusk and dawn.

In daylight, colours and shapes are ‘ordinary’. By noon, under the dazzling midday rays, everything melts into bright white – this silent moment of the day can also sound like it is counterpart, the dead of night. (Standard daylight refers to this exact moment of light without any light variations from other times of the day.)

After the midday glow, light levels dwindle again; on a warm afternoon, the sunset presents us with a fiery spectacle of fading colours. At dusk, the world is enveloped by long shadows, semi-darkness moves humankind into the two-dimensional world contiguous two-dimensionality, before it is swallowed up in absolute darkness.

a day in pictures

Find out more

Evolution of Artificial Light

Fire, torches, oil lamps and candles served to lengthen days into the night for thousands of years. A brief history of man-made light

Effects of Electric Light

Our cities are getting brighter and brighter, our nights too...