Poulsbo, WA – Do you remember the Twilight Zone television series from the 1950s and 60s? Each episode was a fanciful tale of suspense with just enough realism thrown in to make it unnerving. They featured events that could only happen if the conditions were just right in a strange zone between warring worlds of light and darkness… very clever play on the natural phenomenon that occurs every single night in the sky above us.
Last week, the northern hemisphere celebrated the annual summer solstice. Here in northwestern Washington, it is a day in which we typically enjoy a whopping 16 hours of daylight and only 1 hour and thirty seven minutes of true night. The rest is known as twilight, a special light that seems to possess the properties of both light and dark. It is a fleeting changing of the guard as diurnal happenings give way to nocturnal.
Always one to love venturing outside at night, I decided to take a walk in a nearby forest area at sunset, which was at 9:12 p.m. Donning our flashlights, we took off about an hour before sunset and made our way through the fairly bright forest up to a recent clearcut area. The sky opened up above us and kept our path well lit as we enjoyed tart wild raspberries and stands of foxglove wildflowers along the way to the top.
At the strike of sunset, we watched a blazing sky of yellow orange melt away behind the trees, giving way to soft blues, pinks and gold as the first phase of twilight commenced. Known as civil twilight, it is a delightful time after the sun has set, but has only dropped a few degrees below the horizon. Light takes on an ethereal quality, coaxing crepuscular creatures to stir from their daytime slumber. During this particular period of twilight, a nighthawk appeared high overhead and entertained us with his courtship flight, which ended in a spectacular vroom as air rushed noisily through his feathers.
After just under an hour, the sun slips deeper below the horizon and the next phase of twilight begins. Nautical twilight occurs when the sun is anywhere from 6 – 12 degrees below the horizon. Visibility drops and we can almost hear the rustling of ground dwellers running for cover as hungry owls settle on their favorite hunting perches. Songbirds quiet and an uneasy kind of peacefulness envelopes the forest.
Almost 2 hours after sunset, atmospheric twilight baths the night sky with only a hint of light. The sun has dropped beyond 12 degrees below the horizon. At 18 degrees, the sky no longer radiates the sun’s rays directly. True night stakes its claim with only the reflected light of moon and planets or the light of other stars piercing the darkness.
It is time for us to call it a night and head for the light of home. We’ve walked through new zones of light and experienced a different side of our lowland forest. Our minds are full of twilight wonders…
We’ll be back.
To see the solar calendar for your area, check out timeanddate.com
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Images – SPegany ©2000-2020, unless otherwise noted
6 thoughts on “Twilight Zones”
I so much enjoyed this post.
Have you been following the presence of the pre-dawn noctilucent clouds? 3:30 am on clear mornings, lighting up the sky!
Thank you for sharing your observations!
Thanks so much Mary! It has been so much fun to be out in the forest at twilight. I have never heard of pre-dawn noctilucent clouds, but now I can’t wait to set my alarm. I hope all Pacific Wonder Tracker readers will be up early at least one morning this month to check it out. Thank you so much for sharing yet another wonder to be enjoyed.
Some how I missed you but found the sight now. Beautiful and inspiring 🌻
The website you posted took me directly to my position on this Earth.
Wow! I learned about so many things like sundogs and moondogs. Also discovered an additional North called Grid North. Geographic North and True, or Magnetic North, doesn’t line up to our compasses. Magnetic North is always moving about 35 miles a year. Wow! Also our compasses respond to all the magnetic materials within the Earth.
CURRENTLY IT IS MOVING TOWARD RUSSIAN COAST AT AN INCREASING RATE.
Article from website doesn’t state why. Interrrresting!
Hi Joyce, the sky above us is packed full of wonders as is the workings of this earth. I am so glad that you found a great place to learn. There is no end to the wonders in this universe. I think it was specifically designed that way to give us a lifetime of wondering, adventuring and discovering the mind behind it all. Thanks for your observations. Keep tracking wonder!
Rereading your solstice post was like reading a Bib