What makes the perfect sunrise?

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1. Here comes the Sun

Sunrise marks the beginning of the day for millions of people around the world.

If you're lucky enough to be on board the International Space Station you get to see a sunrise every 92 minutes. That's 15 every single day. And yet the vast majority of us miss out on one of nature's true spectacles because we're still in bed.

The Sun’s mass is vast, accounting for around 99.85% of the entire solar system. But as the earth rotates to reveal a shimmering golden orb in the east, what do we really know about sunrise?

2. A trick of the light

We actually see different colours at different times of the day. The Sun is actually white and its rays are made up of a wide spectrum of colours which combine to produce white light. Each colour has a slightly different wavelength.

Weather presenter Behnaz Akhgar gets up early to investigate what makes the perfect sunrise.

At sunrise, when the Sun is lower in the sky, the sunlight we see has to pass through a much thicker layer of atmosphere, water vapour and dust, which all help to absorb and scatter the blue light. This allows more yellow, orange and red light to reach our eyes at dawn when our eyes are naturally drawn towards the light.

3. Touching the sun

Click or tap on the areas around the Sun to discover the ideal conditions for a perfect sunrise.

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4. Astro-ancestors

Science can now explain why the Sun disappears and reappears each day, but it must have been a worrying time for our ancient ancestors.

The Sun held a very special place in the psyche of Britain’s earliest Neolithic farmers.

They observed the Sun’s movements, solar cycles and seasons in order to know when to plant their crops and hunt particular migratory animals such as salmon and birds.

For them the Sun was vital to their survival and provided a way of tracing the passage of time. Ancient people were already marking the position of the winter and summer solstice 5,000 years before the first calendars were even invented.

As a result they invested a huge amount of effort designing, building and aligning their most prestigious monuments to the Sun, often with astonishing accuracy.

5. Capturing sunrise

If you'd like to witness a crimson sky, full of oranges, reds and dusky pinks then you'll need a ridge of high pressure over the UK and light winds to keep pollution levels low.

Andy Akinwolere gets up early with astronomer and photographer Pete Lawrence to capture the perfect sunrise.

6. Watching the perfect sunrise

Aside from having the right weather conditions, your location is important too. Rural locations with clearer air and uninterrupted easterly facing views are ideal. Heading up into nearby hills and mountains can also pay dividends.

With a north and east coast to choose from we're spoilt for choice but the Shetland Islands are one of the best places to watch a sunrise in Britain.

Between April and September they are also the first place in Britain to be bathed in sunlight at dawn and there's plenty of open ocean for the light and colours to reflect off.

To see a good sunrise you've got to put in a bit of effort though so set your alarm and get up early. Most published sunrise times are calculated for a sea-level horizon so might not be accurate for your location.

Enjoy your sunrise and just think – the light on the horizon took eight minutes to reach you from the sun, travelling at 300,000 kilometres a second.

7. A burning question

We rely on the Sun for all manner of things such as Vitamin D, light, heat, energy and food so what would happen...

If we had no more sunlight

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If we had no more sunlight

For eight and a half minutes we'd have no idea. Our moon would vanish and as photosynthesis ended our plants and animals would eventually die out.

If we had no heat from the Sun

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If we had no heat from the Sun

Temperatures would drop and could be as low as -38ºC within a year. Our atmosphere and the upper layer of our oceans would freeze over.

If we stopped orbiting the Sun

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If we stopped orbiting the Sun

The Sun's mass pulls in all the other planets in our solar system. Without it we'd fly off into space in a straight line until a new solar system was found.