Sunrise in three parts

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

“Good morning.” “Guten Morgen.” “Buon giorno.” “Bon matin.”

Let’s discuss morning. There are three separate stages, as those who are outdoors at that particular time know. First comes “first light.” Then comes “dawn.” Finally there comes “sun-up” or “sunrise.”


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First light is dark. Then a faint “flush” of light — merely a smudge — appears in the general direction of the east. Sometimes it’s north of east, sometimes way south (in the winter.)

But you can tell by the smudge of light that a new day will in fact dawn sometime in the next hour or so. You can tell this on a clear day or cloudy — the sky lightens. Hence, “first light.”

Dawn approaches. You can tell where the sun will rise. There is one place brighter than all the others, clouds aside. By this time, it is basically light. You can distinguish bushes, trees and specific clouds. Day has arrived, whether you’re ready or not. Dawn.

And then, finally, there’s sun-up or sunrise. The big ball of flaming hydrogen and helium breaks above the horizon, and then somehow it jumps above the horizon. It takes less than several minutes.

But not everywhere. If you are at sea or near the sea, you may get what we call a “light bulb effect.” As the sun rises, it seems to cling to the line of the horizon, elongating the orb, giving it the shape of a light bulb.

Then, with the sun fully risen, it’s time for coffee, sunglasses, car visors and window shades.

As the days get longer and the sun gets stronger, be sure to protect yourself and those you love from those harmful ultraviolet rays and the potential damage to your skin — or worse, skin cancer — while enjoying the great outdoors.

Many people think sun protection is just for a recreational day at the lake, beach or pool. But sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time you are in the sun.

Avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight too long. This is particularly important between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet light is strongest.

If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, the American Cancer Society suggests using the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest.

Use a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, and don’t forget to reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.

So as the folks at the Cancer Society say: “Slip, slop, slap and wrap.” Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap those sunglasses around your eyes — and then get out there and have some fun in the sun.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at