Sunrise vs Sunset: Difference and Comparison

Sunrise and Sunset are the two most beautiful and captivating phenomena that occur daily and are hard to ignore. Both these terms are related to the sun. You might have guessed it already by looking at the names sun-rise and sun-set.

Both events are vital for the survival of humans, plants, animals and other lifeforms because it helps energize the surrounding and imparts a strong feeling of energy that keeps the ecosystem running every day.

Despite both these terms being analytically differentiable, people still tend to confuse them for some reason. To compute whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset? It is important to understand their differences. Sunrise and Sunset are distinguished in the article. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Sunrise is when the sun first appears above the horizon in the morning, whereas Sunset is when the sun disappears below the horizon in the evening.
  2. Sunrise occurs in the east, while Sunset occurs in the west.
  3. The colors during Sunrise and Sunset are different due to how light is scattered by the atmosphere.

Sunrise vs Sunset

The difference between Sunrise and Sunset is that sunrise occurs in the morning, and sunset occurs in the evening. When there is sunrise, the sun stays in the sky, whereas during sunset, the sun disappears, and the sky becomes completely dark. This time of the evening is also known as ‘Twilight’. 

Sunrise vs Sunset

Sunrises in the morning, and it always rises in the east direction and stays in the sky for almost 12 hours a day. The intensity of sun rays increases as time passes.

At noon, the sun is at its peak intensity. If people head out during this time of the day, they can get severe sunburns and headaches.

Sunsets in the evening, and it always sets in the west direction. Sunset also lasts for almost 12 hours a day. The intensity of sun rays decreases as time passes.

Once it’s past noon, the atmosphere starts cooling off, and a cool breeze emerges in the atmosphere. Sunsets never harm the skin or body. Instead, they cool them off.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSunrise Sunset 
Occurrence Sunrise occurs in the morning, which is also known to be the start of the day.Sunset occurs in the evening, which is also known as the end of the day or busy time of the day. 
Direction Sun always rises in the east direction. The process is not reversible.Sun always sets in the west direction. The process is not reversible.  
Twilight Sun rises in the morning twilight when sunlight appears in the sky. This transitional duration is known as “Dawn”. Sunset in the evening twilight when the sunlight disappears completely, and moonlight appears. The duration is referred to as “Dusk”. 
Atmospheric temperatureSunrise temperatures are higher because the refraction is less. Sunset temperatures are moderate because cool air has more refraction. 
Appearance Sunrises are yellowish because at the start of the day, there are minute levels of aerosols and pollutants in the atmosphere. Thus, the yellow sky appearance. Sunsets are reddish or resemble orangish most of the time because as the day passes, the level of aerosols and pollutants increases due to constant human activities in the daytime. These particles change the atmospheric conditions. Therefore, you see orange or red sunlight during sunset. 

What is Sunrise?

Sunrise, also known as “sun up”, is the time or duration when the upper limb of the sun becomes visible on the horizon in the morning. Sunrise happens because the solar disk crosses the horizon and brings along some atmospheric effect, too.

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The Sun appears to “rise” from the human eye’s perspective. People just know the fact that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening but are unfamiliar with the mechanism that entitles this phenomenon every day.

The sun doesn’t move; it’s the Earth that moves, and that motion causes a change of direction of the sun in the morning and in the evening. Sunrise only appears, for instance, when the upper limb of the sun excursions on the horizon.

Morning twilight occurs when the sky is brightening, but the sun is not up yet. This twilight is known as “Dawn”.

The appearance of the sun during sunrise is faded as compared to sunset because the air molecules in the atmosphere scatter white sunlight as soon as it reaches Earth’s atmosphere.

When white rays pass through the surface, most of the shorter wavelength components are eliminated, i.e. Blue and Green, while longer-wavelength rays are stronger; thus, they appear when the sun rises, i.e. orange and red.

Thus, the observer can see only these colors during sunrise.


What is Sunset?

Sunset, also known as “sundown”, is the time or duration when the upper limb disappears below the horizon in the evening.

Atmospheric refraction is so high in the evening that rays start to become distorted to the extent that the solar disk goes below the horizon.

Evening twilight is different during the evening. Twilight occurs in three stages in the evening. The first stage is known as ‘Civil twilight’, where the sun disappears 6 degrees below the horizon and continues to descend.

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The next stage is known as ‘Nautical twilight’, which occurs when the sun goes 6 to 12 degrees below the horizon, and the last stage is known as ‘ Astronomical twilight’, where the sun descends to 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon.

After astronomical twilight comes the actual twilight known as “Dusk”, this is the darkest time of the twilight. Complete darkness or night occurs when the sun goes 18 degrees below the horizon.

When a ray of white sunlight passes through the atmosphere, the rays with the shortest wavelength get scattered by the beam of air molecules or dust particles.

Longer wavelength rays are left behind, which then continue to travel while letting the sky appear red or orange.

The color of the sky during sunset depends on the number of cloud droplets and large air particles present in the atmosphere.


Main Differences Between Sunrise and Sunset 

  1. Sunrise occurs in the morning, whereas sunset occurs in the evening. 
  2. The sun is in the sky during sunrise. When sunset occurs, the sun hides in the sky and slowly disappears on the horizon. 
  3. Sunrise occurs in the east direction, whereas sunsets occur in the west direction. 
  4. Dawn is the beginning of the twilight and occurs before sunrise. In contrast, Dusk is the period of twilight that occurs after sunset. 
  5. The Sunrise sky appears in fader colors, but the Sunset sky appears more vibrant and fuller in either orange or red hues. This is due to the change in air pollutants starting from daytime to evening. 
Difference Between Sunrise and Sunset

Last Updated : 29 August, 2023

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8 thoughts on “Sunrise vs Sunset: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I found the detailed description of the stages of evening twilight during sunset particularly engaging and intellectually stimulating.

  2. This article provided a very informative comparison of sunrises and sunsets that is easy to understand and a joy to read.

  3. The author’s explanation of the Earth’s movement and its role in sunrise and sunset was both compelling and enlightening.

  4. The author made a well-reasoned case for the importance of differentiating between the terms sunrise and sunset.

  5. The detailed explanation of atmospheric refraction during sunrise and sunset provides valuable insights into these natural phenomena.

  6. While most people are familiar with the terms sunrise and sunset, this article provides a deeper understanding of their scientific underpinnings.

  7. The article’s comparison table neatly summarizes the key differences between sunrises and sunsets, making it easy for readers to grasp the distinctions.


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