When Does It Get Dark After Sunset?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 30th, 2022

Many variables contribute to this intricate process, which is why the transition between day and night has long been an inspiration for stories, myths, and works of art.

What Is the Definition of Sunset Time?

Before we begin, you should understand what you mean by sunset time.

silhouette of mountain

Sunset time is defined in astronomy as the moment when the Sun (upper limb) disappears below the horizon.

When watching a sunset, atmospheric refraction near the horizon distorts the sunlight/sun rays so that the solar disk is geometrically one diameter below the horizon.

So it is acceptable to state that sunset differs from twilight.

As a result, it is essential to emphasize that having a thorough grasp of twilight next will undoubtedly enable you to know when it will be just dark enough in your area to appreciate what the night sky has to offer.

How long does it take to turn dark once the sun goes down?

If you’re near the equator, it may only take 20 or 30 minutes to turn dark.

However, it takes around 70 minutes after sunset for it to get completely black. It may take a bit longer in certain states to become truly dark. The fact is that it will vary greatly depending on where you are on the planet.

This will be true for folks in the United States and the majority of Europe. This, however, varies greatly as one moves closer or further away from the equator. This is the major reason it’s impossible to provide a proper response to the question, as it varies depending on where you are on the planet.

So, how long does it take to become dark after sunset?

To address this question, we must first consider the many forms of “darkness” you may be referring to when you ask it.

From Day to Sunset to Night – The Various Types of Twilight:

Layers of light and darkness dance as the Sun sets and rises, revealing a wide range of color tones. Which ones are you after, and what kind of twilight are you looking for?

Twilight is the transitional interval between day and night. The Sun is still visible, but it is either behind the horizon or has not yet appeared. Some photographers like photographing the setting Sun, while others enjoy photographing gorgeous dawn.

Dawn is the name for twilight in the morning, while dusk is the name for twilight in the evening. Both are divided into three subcategories.

Aside from that, two times of the day are known as golden hour and the blue hour. We will not treat these “magic hours” in depth because they are not measured by precise time but rather by an aesthetic description of light conditions, but we will note a few options they give near the essay’s conclusion.

Civil Twilight:

The earliest and brightest kind of twilight occurs when the Sun is less than 6 degrees below the horizon. Civil dawn occurs when the sun is just about to rise in the morning, and civil darkness occurs when the sun has set but has not passed 6 degrees below the horizon.

Only the brightest objects can be seen adequately by astronomers during this time. However, it may be an excellent opportunity to obtain a clear image of some objects without interference. It’s a great moment for photographers to take some candid images without using any artificial lighting.

Nautical Twilight:

The following type of twilight is darker and occurs when the Sun is 6 to 12 degrees below the horizon. Nautical dawn and nautical dusk are times when the majority of stars can be viewed with the naked eye.

This signifies that astronomical viewings are already in season. Cameras can still be used during this period, although most images will be dark and fuzzy. You might, however, take images of terrestrial views with a camera and a telescope. A telescope can gather up more light, and you might be able to photograph a city during this time.

Astronomical Twilight:

We are nearly fully engulfed by darkness when the Sun is at least 12 degrees below the horizon but not more than 18 degrees – this is known as astronomical twilight.

Astronomical dawn and dusk, as the name says, are excellent for astronomical exploration, but for typical photographers, this period is not particularly beneficial unless you photograph a lighted metropolis. Of course, astrophotography is an exception.

Twilight is sometimes indistinguishable from midnight — the period when the Sun is more than 18 degrees below the horizon. This is especially true in locations with a lot of light pollution.

While most sharp objects may be seen during astronomical twilight, certain dim and distant stars can only be seen after astrological nightfall or before astronomical dawn. This is the second explanation behind the phases’ names. Only at night can the tiniest things in the sky be seen.

The True Night-Time

Understanding what time it is at night may be very simple. The genuine night begins when all of the twilight stages have passed. Essentially, the night is complete blackness, as there is no light pollution from the Sun. The optimum time to observe the stars is at night, and an astronomer should wait until he can no longer see the Sun’s waning light near the horizon.

The night is defined scientifically as the period when the Sun’s center is between 18o and 90o below the horizon. It is crucial to note that nighttime is impacted by various factors, including position relative to the equator and seasons.

The night is an excellent time to study the sky and its beauties. Those who are interested in astrophotography will be able to snap stunning photographs of the Milky Way, the Aurora Borealis, and other sky occurrences.

How long does it take to go dark after sunset in my area?

If we told you that the further north you go in the summer, the longer twilight lasts, you probably wouldn’t be able to explain why. The reason for this is that the computations take into account various elements. As a result, estimating the exact moment it goes dark is difficult unless you have a lot of expertise.

Let’s have a look at the various elements.

The Equator’s Latitude and Distance:

The Equator is the line traced around the Earth midway between the poles. This line splits the Earth into northern and southern hemispheres, forming the parallel of latitude 0°. Latitude is a type of geographic coordinate. This coordinate indicates the north and south location of a point on the Earth’s surface.

The distance from the Equator will influence how quickly the Sun sets.

Consider the following: the Sun does not truly rise or set. This is an optical illusion caused by the Earth’s round form.

As a result, latitude determines the length of day and night and, consequently, the length of twilight. It also determines the Sun’s position at noon, which might be between the top of your head and the horizon.

One rule of thumb from the March equinox through the September equinox is that the more north you go, the sooner the sunrises and the sunsets. This is because the northern hemisphere is inclined toward the Sun during that time.

The Earth’s Tilt and the Four Seasons:

As you know, days lengthen in the summer and shorten in the winter. This also implies that the summer twilights will stay longer. However, things may soon become confusing, so take your time to wrap your brain around it.

The December solstice marks when the Sun reaches its southernmost position in the sky.

This results in the southern hemisphere’s longest day of the year. As a result, the December solstice becomes the Summer solstice in the south. The June solstice is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Hence the longest day occurs in June.

It is natural to believe that the summer solstice should have the earliest sunrise and the later sunset — this makes sense because it allows for the longest day. However, this is not always the case.

This odd occurrence is caused by the Earth’s tilt of 23.5 degrees and its elliptical orbit.

Many believe that our planet’s distance from the Sun changes throughout the year, causing the seasons to alter. Like the previous example, that appears to be extremely reasonable, but the reality is quite different.

Summer occurs in the Northern Hemisphere because the North is inclined towards the Sun and gets more sunlight than in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, the reverse is true. The tilt of the Earth is not fully constant, which complicates calculations for times of year and twilights, although it is typically aligned with the North Star.

The Possibility of a Double Sunset Due to Altitude

Sunset timing is affected by altitude. Mountains at higher elevations will always have a delayed sunset since the horizon is “lower.”

A “double sunset” is feasible under specific conditions. This is an unusual occurrence in locations with adjacent towering mountains. The Sun sets behind a section of the mountain but reappears behind another section before setting again.

However, a distinct form of double sunset is also feasible in current times. The Burj Khalifa is so tall that you can see the sunset twice a day. If you watch a sunset from the ground and then ride the elevator, you will be able to see another sunset. The time difference is usually approximately 3 minutes.

Equinox and Solstice

The day equals the night twice a year. These are Equinoxes, which occur when the Sun’s center is directly above the equator. During these instances, the sunlight’s refraction makes the Sun seem over the horizon while it is below the skyline.

The Equinoxes occur on September 20th, when the days become shorter, and March 23rd, when the days lengthen.

The Solstices commemorate either the longest (in June) or the shortest day of the year (in December). These events occur when the Earth’s axis tilt from the Sun is at its greatest. The Sun looks to be reaching its zenith in the sky.

Sunset’s Various Colors

Surprisingly, this dispersed sunshine is also responsible for our stunning sunsets.

Sunlight is white light that contains all of the hues of the rainbow. Each visible color travels unobstructed from the Sun in a wave through space before reaching our atmosphere.

Blue is the shortest hue, although it appears more frequently when the Sun’s beams are more direct. This is why we have such a beautiful blue sky.

As the Sun sets at the end of the day, the light waves must travel longer through our atmosphere to reach us. When this occurs, the blue hue begins to fade, and new, longer colors appear.

Fortunately, this is where the other colors come into play. Yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds typically hidden under blues burst forward. Red has the longest wavelength and frequently lasts the longest into the night.

What Am I Able to See at Twilight?

Photography is typically connected with the day, but astronomy is associated with the night. The reasons behind this are straightforward and obvious.

You need a lot of light for photography – if there isn’t enough sunlight, you’ll have to use other methods to compensate, or you’ll wind up with really gloomy photographs. A dark sky is equally as vital as a clean sky for astronomy.

While all of this is true, twilight can be a very productive time of day in all its manifestations. Certain hues are only visible after twilight and may also be utilized for long exposure photography or astrophotography.

Twilight emits both a gradually burning orange color and a deep blue light. These hues are caused by dispersed sunlight reflected by particles in the atmosphere. This produces diffuse light, which has a wide range of applications in photography.

The sky is fairly bright during civil twilight. During this time, you can view just the brightest space objects in the sky. However, because the outdoors is still extremely bright, this is an excellent opportunity to get some unusual astrophotography shots, terrestrial observation images, and conventional photographs.

During this time, the light is dispersed, and different hues of color emerge in the sky. As a result, civil twilight is ideal for portrait and landscape photography. Summer is also a perfect time for moon photography, which can be done with the help of a telescope.

Mercury and Venus are two of the greatest astronomical objects to watch during civil twilight. This is because you can’t see these two planets at other times since they’re inner planets, which means their orbits are between the Sun’s and Earth’s. Finding the right moment to observe these is more than simply a question of hours; it is also a matter of selecting the right day, so you will need to prepare ahead.

Most stars will be visible throughout the nautical twilight, allowing the true astronomical fun to begin. One might detect a persistent background glow in low-light conditions, such as at sea. Observations of the Moon and brilliant planets are welcomed, as are astrophotographs.

On the other hand, most deep-sky objects will be obscured or entirely undetectable in the glow of the sky, particularly in light-polluted locations. Depending on where you live, nautical twilight is an excellent period for urban and city photography.

The dim and diffused lighting also enables some long exposure images that don’t require neutral density filters, making life a little simpler. It is still possible to put a camera on a telescope and take some terrestrial photographs.

Then comes astronomical twilight, when the sky darkens considerably more, and most stars and constellations become visible. Nebulae and galaxies, for example, are difficult to see with the human eye. While brilliant and open clusters may be seen with a telescope, hazy objects like galaxies may be too dim.

Because moonlight replaces sunlight during astronomical twilight, you must consider moon phases when photographing because the Moon will be your primary light source. In astronomy, you may capture stunning long-exposure images and photographs of solitary objects like planets and the Moon.

You must wait until astronomical night to experience full darkness. Because this is the only time of year when galaxies are fully visible with a telescope, obtaining a broad view of a galaxy is difficult if you cannot afford to remain awake all night.

As previously said, two time periods are essential for photographers but may be useful for astronomers if you want to delve into the terrestrial investigation. These are the golden and blue hours. The exact colors and times of these “golden hours” will be heavily influenced by light pollution.

The golden hour is the period that roughly corresponds to the time between sunrise or sunset and the brighter part of civil twilight. However, this is simply a guideline. The sky’s hue changes from red to orange to yellow, providing many shades of golden colors along the way.

The warm hues paint the clouds and the ground crimson as the nautical dusk approaches, while the sky turns blue. The two hues clash in the water. The light is mellow and gentle during this time, producing lesser shadows, making it ideal for landscape photography, particularly terrestrial telescopic photography.

The blue hour is the second most critical photographing time. Since of the nature of cities, this time of day is ideal for urban photography because many buildings, especially residential structures, will have their lights turned on.

This period roughly corresponds to the darkest part of civil twilight. As previously said, Moon photography and terrestrial telescope photography were spectacular around this period.

Cool facts about sunsets

  • The magnificent and gorgeous hues of sunsets are being caused by pollution. Red sunsets may be caused by local pollution in major cities. The entire celestial performance, however, will be hazed if the pollution level is too high.
  • Crimson sunsets predict stormy weather. Red wavelengths pass through the atmosphere, whereas shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are dispersed by dust and moisture particles.
  • The Norwegian city of Tromso, located more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, has dramatic seasonal light fluctuations. Polar Night occurs throughout the winter months of November to January, when the Sun remains below the horizon. Because of its high altitude, twilight lasts longer throughout March and September, resulting in no real darkness.
  • The summer solstice occurs on all of our solar system’s planets. The summer solstice, for example, occurs once every 84 years on Uranus.
  • Every summer solstice in northern Iceland, an amazing phenomenon occurs. The only location outside the Arctic Circle where the Sun never sets. Looking at the skyline, you can see the Sun lingering over the water but not sinking beyond the horizon.
  • No shadows may be seen in the Tropic of Cancer (23.43659o north of the equator) during the solstice, around midday. This occurs because the Sun is at a 90o angle to the Earth.


As you can see, estimating the precise twilight moment is quite difficult. The causes for this are the various twilight periods, seasonal differences, latitude, and light pollution. Because calculating it without prior expertise is so complex, the best method is to visit one of the several websites that can do the calculations for you.

Finally, evaluate the level of light pollution in places you wish to shoot or set up your telescope. Dawn and dusk in clear places with low light pollution (villages, mountains, and deserts) will typically seem the same, save for the exact location of stars in the sky.

Because of the activities of people living and working in such places, light-polluted cities and areas with a lot of industrial pollution would have diverse seeming twilights. On the other hand, these contaminated places can allow you to snap some unusual photos that would not be feasible without the pollution.

Understanding how the sky and light behave during the night-to-day shift is critical for astronomers and photographers. We hope you gained a basic understanding of how these things interact and that you will be able to take better images or locate your favorite items in the sky as a result.


How long does it take to turn dark in the United States?

If you live in the United States, you will not experience the extreme lengths of time between sunset and darkness. In most circumstances, depending on the time of year and where you are in the nation, it will take between one and two hours. The more north you go, the longer it takes.

What causes the sun to set in the west?

The simplest explanation for why the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West is because it revolves in an Easterly orientation, which implies the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. If we disregard the Earth’s tilt and elliptical orbit of the Sun, it simply spins on its axis towards the East, implying that the Sun rises in the East first for all of us.

How long does golden hour last before sunset?

The term “golden hour” refers to a certain time of day, yet it applies to both dawn and sunset. The golden hour is the hour before sunset and the hour after the sun rises in the morning. It’s so named because it’s the ideal moment for photographers to get a beautiful image with the right amount of illumination.

How long does it take for the stars to appear once the sun has set?

We must wait until there is complete darkness or night before seeing the stars in the sky. This is usually an hour or two after we’ve achieved darkness, so you’ll have to wait a bit if you want to go stargazing. One twilight stage is considered astronomical since it is ideal for bringing out the telescope.

Is it darker before or after sunset?

When astronomical twilight finishes, darkness begins, during which the sun emits zero to a negligible amount of light pollution.

As a result, the sun has no effect on the horizon at night. As a result, the sun does not affect the astronomers’ seeing ability when they stargaze at night. On the other hand, the reserve of the three indicated stages would result in a sunrise. So, after nightfall, you will see astronomical twilight, followed by naval twilight, civil twilight, and eventually daybreak.

Hopefully, you now understand how long it takes to turn dark before and after sunset and dawn. However, you may be wondering how long it takes in your area to go dark after sunset.

But, first and foremost, you must understand that not all areas on this planet are the same, which is why, in the far north, twilight lasts longer in summer. Furthermore, other elements impact the rate at which it becomes dark after sunset.


Editorial Staff

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