Have you ever seen the green flash at sunset?

Because I haven’t! No matter how hard I keep from blinking or how much I concentrate on the area above the horizon, I always seem to miss that much-coveted green flash. It’s a visual phenomenon that happens an instant after the sun sets (or immediately before sunrise) – a fleeting spot of intense emerald light on the horizon that appears as a flicker or a brief glow.

Hawaii and the Caribbean are the best places for spotting the flash. In writing this story, I gathered some tips on ways to get a glimpse of the green. First, the skies should be near perfectly clear. Clouds, pollution or haze will get in the way. Second, make sure you are viewing it at or near sea level. You may also be able to spot it from land, but it should be from a far enough distance, such as from a tall building or a mountain top. Lastly, be patient. Wait until the last blip of sun appears to be touching the horizon.

Some cultures consider the green flash a sign of good luck. Others may think it’s a bad omen. For me, it’s something my friends and I look for while we’re surfing at sunset. Although, I’ve yet to see it! Hopefully the above tips will help next time I’m in search of the green flash. I do know that some Hawaii visitors will make seeing this blip of green as much a priority as finding a rainbow.

Speaking of rainbows, the phenomenon responsible for the green flash is also the one that paints colors across the sky. As sunlight passes through the thickest possible layer of the atmosphere, the light bends slightly. This results in colored arcs of light above and below the sun, similar to when light passes through raindrops and creates rainbows. During the sunset and sunrise, however, green is usually the only color we see; however, depending on the angle of the horizon and the conditions, blue, yellow or violet colored rays just might make an appearance.

Don’t be fooled, however, by the faux flash! Otherwise known as the “fool’s flash,” this is the lingering green-colored after image that occurs when staring directly at the sun (which you shouldn’t do.) Use polarized sunglasses or look away from the sun until the very last moment to avoid hurting your eyes. The wait will be worth this amazing spectacle in nature. Happy hunting!


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