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The different phases of twilight

In photography, lighting conditions are particularly important. These are usually the most unfavorable for the photographer around midday, because that's when the sun is particularly high and causes all colors to fade, the photos appear lifeless, colorless and uninteresting; light and shadow conditions produce sharp edges and transitions. Therefore, in addition to the night, the edge of the day, i.e. the times around sunrise and sunset, should be taken into account in photography. They provide particularly beautiful light and offer countless design possibilities.

The day is followed by the “Golden Hour,” which is followed by the “Civil Twilight,” which is followed by the “Blue Hour”; This is followed by the “Nautical Twilight” and the “Astronomical Twilight” before night follows. Before sunrise, the same order is followed only backwards.

The golden hour is the time just after sunrise and just before sunset in photography. As the name suggests, it is characterized by a particularly golden and soft light because the sun is still or already very low. If the sun is just above the horizon, the intensity of direct light is reduced because the light rays have to travel a greater distance through the earth's atmosphere. The light appears redder due to the diffuse scattering and longer shadows are created due to the small angle, as the sun is only roughly above the horizon. The golden hour lasts approximately one hour in Luxembourg.
Particularly atmospheric pictures can also be taken during the so-called “blue hour”. Here, a combination of natural residual light and artificial light in the form of street lamps and illuminated houses creates a special charm. The yellow-reddish residual light of the sun in combination with the intense blue of the sky are complementary colors that are often used specifically in photography.

The blue hour begins immediately before the golden hour before sunrise and immediately follows the golden hour at sunset. In our latitudes it takes around 30-45 minutes. Roughly speaking, twilight is the time before sunrise and the time after sunset. However, twilight can be divided into three phases:

  • Civil twilight

  • Nautical twilight

  • Astronomical twilight

The phases of twilight are determined by the angle of the sun below the horizon.


In our latitudes, civil twilight lasts about half an hour and falls between the golden hour and the blue hour. It overlaps with both parts and is the brightest twilight phases. Here the sun is up to 6 degrees below the horizon. It begins in the morning at its lowest angle of 6 degrees below the horizon and ends at sunrise. In the evening it follows sunset and ends when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. Civil twilight is still used today for many laws, for example for driving with lights, for lighting with street lamps or in aviation.


Nautical twilight is the second phases of twilight; it is found at sunrise before civil twilight. Here the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon.

In this phases you can already see the stars with the naked eye. On new moon nights with clear skies, the earth's shadow can even be seen.
The third phases of twilight is astronomical twilight. It precedes nautical twilight; in this twilight phases the sun is between 12-18 degrees below the horizon. In the last phases of twilight, most stars are already visible. However, the sky is not yet completely dark / “black”.


Basically, the length of twilight depends on the proximity to the two poles: The closer you are to the poles, the longer the twilight lasts. There are practically no twilight phases at the equator. There is an approximately three-week twilight period at the North and South Poles during the summer solstice and winter solstice.

In northern Scandinavia in spring, the polar night transitions into an approximately three-week astronomical twilight phases, followed by a short nautical and civil twilight phases before the sun rises and does not set again for the next few months.

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