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One of the many beautiful features of Tamborine Mountain is the sense of being surrounded by sky. We have grandstand views of spectacular sunrises over the ocean, sunsets over the mountains, ever-changing cloud formations and starry skies at night. It seems as if every sunrise and sunset is slightly different not only because of the variation in clouds, but also the range of sky colours, which can vary from pale, delicate, pastel tints to bright vivid hues.
There are three factors that create our perception of the sky colours – light, our own perception and the Earth’s atmosphere

Light expressed simply, light consists of waves - travelling energy in the form of vibrating electric and magnetic fields. Sunlight appears to be white, but by passing sunlight through two prisms Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light is actually a mixture of colours called the visible spectrum. We can see this in rainbows, when water in the atmosphere splits white light into the colours of the visible spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (in order of longer to shorter wavelengths). Ultraviolet light has even shorter wavelengths; it may be visible to other species but is not visible to us.

Perception we perceive light through 3 different types of receptors in the retina of our eyes. Our vision is most receptive to the red, green and blue wavelengths. We also have some automatic vision adjustments in our brain, which have evolved as a survival mechanism to help us separate natural colours clearly. It is strange to think that nothing actually has colour itself. All we really see is a combination of waves of light that are reflected and absorbed by surfaces. Eg green plants contain chlorophyll, which absorbs blue and red colours, but reflects green; therefore our eyes perceive the plants as green.

Atmosphere the white light emitted by the sun passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, and the molecules and particles in the atmosphere have various effects on the waves of light. The shorter the wavelength of light, the greater the chance of being scattered.

During the day, the molecules of oxygen and nitrogen present in the atmosphere scatter the higher energy, shorter wavelength waves, so we see this as blue light. Since violet light has the shortest wavelength, it would seem that the sky should be violet. However it is not, partly because some violet light is absorbed by the upper atmosphere, and partly because our eyes are more receptive to blue than violet. As a survival mechanism to distinguish colours, our eyes also adjust to see the sky as a pure and constant blue.

At night there is minimal scattering of light so the night sky appears a constant black. Clouds and haze appear white, because they contain such large molecules that all the different wavelengths of white light are scattered equally.

At sunrise and sunset the sun’s light has to pass through more atmosphere than when the sun is directly above, this scatters the longer wavelength colours such as reds, oranges and yellows, (and colour combinations). And these colours can be scattered even more by particles such as dust, soot and salt which further enhance the colours.

The processes that create colours in the sky may be complex and difficult to understand, but the beauty that is created can be appreciated by anyone who spares a few minutes to look around.

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Why does attentiveness to nature matter? In a very fundamental sense, we are what we pay attention to. Paying heed to beauty, grace, and everyday miracles promotes a sense of possibility and coherence that runs deeper and truer than the often illusory commercial, social "realities" advanced by mainstream contemporary culture. ... Our attention is precious, and what we choose to focus it on has enormous consequences. What we choose to look at, and to listen to--these choices change the world. As Thich Nhat Hanh has pointed out, we become the bad television programs that we watch. A society that expends its energies tracking the latest doings of the celebrity couple is fundamentally distinct from one that watches for the first arriving spring migrant birds, or takes a weekend to check out insects in a mountain stream, or looks inside flowers to admire the marvelous ingenuities involved in pollination. The former tends to drag culture down to its lowest commonalities; the latter can lift us up in a sense of unity with all life. The Way of Natural History, edited by Thomas Lowe Fleischner and published by Trinity University Press (Texas)