A sunset photo recently baffled viewers on social media. An unusual optical effect made the sunset resemble a split-screen image showing two very different skies side by side.
On the right side is a horizon saturated with shades of red and yellow, an image of a beautiful sunset. But on the left side, the sky is darker and more ominous. Uma Gopalakrishnan captured the photo in Charlotte, North Carolina and shared the unedited picture on Instagram and Twitter.
“I had never seen something like this before. And I couldn’t believe it when I did see it that night!” Gopalakrishnan told Live Science.
Though it doesn’t look real, the effect wasn’t created with filters or Photoshop. It’s a natural phenomenon caused by the shadow of a large cloud below the horizon that prevented sunlight from striking the clouds that were closer to viewers on the ground.
How a split sunset works:
◼️◼️◼️ ◻️◻️◻️ https://t.co/bXBceDunts
— Joe Hanson (@DrJoeHanson) July 16, 2019
Science writer Joe Hanson tweeted a visual explanation for the phenomenon on July 16, using emojis. His diagram traces layers of clouds, showing how a large cloud can partially block the sun and cast a shadow on clouds closer to viewers.