Wellington lit up by red sky at night

The Wellington sky above the railway station glows pink.

The Wellington sky above the railway station glows pink.

The sky above Wellington turned into a light show of pink, purple and red.

Captured on mobile devices and shared on social media, the "red sky at night" delighted and captivated those who saw it.   

For some it was the "prettiest" they had ever seen Wellington's night sky while for others it heralded the start of the "apocalypse".

But for the boffins at the MetService, there was a scientific explanation.

MetService Meteorologist Arno Dyason said: "When light enters the atmosphere, the shorter wavelength blue light scatters. During the morning and evening, when the sun rays travels through a longer part of the earth's atmosphere, all the blue light is scattered away leaving only the longer wavelength red light," he said.

"This is why there is a red tinge or pink over Wellington railway station tonight."

The old weather saying goes:

Red sky at night, Shepherd's delight.

Red sky in the morning, Sailor's warning

But what does it mean?

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Meteorologist Ross Marsden has written on the MetService website that red sky at night refers to the setting sun lighting up the cloud of the weather system as it moves away eastwards.

"A substantial part of the sky is in red and orange tones, not just the sky in the west. The shepherd can expect a peaceful night in the open, and not be too concerned about wind and rain."

However, it may not always be wise to trust the skies because MetService is warning of gale northwesterlies, rising to severe gales, gusting to 120kmh in exposed places on Tuesday night before easing on Wednesday afternoon. And some rain is also predicted.

While a red sky and night is forecasting delight, a red sky in the morning is a different matter.

The red sky warned the sailor of the approaching weather – strong, possibly gale-force winds, bad visibility in rain, and possibly thunderstorms, Marsden said.

"Shorten sail! Set course for a sheltered cove!"

 - Stuff

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