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The red sky and the rainbow: Why sunsets in Madrid are so spectacular

Monday night saw the usual heavenly glow accompanied by a complete rainbow

A rainbow in Madrid earlier this month.
A rainbow in Madrid earlier this month.Agusti Ensesa

The sky in Madrid on Monday evening caused a complete commotion for many. It had been raining and the spectacular sunset that is common in the Spanish capital, with its intense colors, was joined by a complete rainbow – it was made for Instagram. A host of photos of the sight were shared on the social networks, with many commenting that the scene made up for the rainy days the city has been seeing lately.

This sky, with such intense colors, actually has a name in Spanish, according to Rubén del Campo, a specialist from the Spanish Meteorology Agency. It’s known as a “candilazo,” a word that the Spanish Royal Academy defines as an “arrebol crepuscular,” and that could be roughly translated as “afterglow twilight.”

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This phenomenon is observed when the sun lights up a sunrise or sunset that is marked by clouds. They are frequent in the spring, when storms lose their force, leaving our star to light up the clouds that remain hanging in the sky. The red-tinged light is due to the sun being positioned lower on the horizon, meaning the light has to travel through the thickest amount of atmosphere, with dispersion causing the red light. On Monday afternoon, a rainbow completed the stunning effect.

Obviously, these “candilazos” are not exclusive to Madrid, but they are seen with such intensity in the city because “it is located on a flat plain and as such there is more horizon in view, in contrast to what you would see in a valley between mountains,” explains Del Campo. That’s to say: “There’s a lot of sky in Madrid.”

To take good photos of these skies, Del Campo recommends “a lot of patience” and an “awareness of the meteorological situation.” It’s also a good idea to get up to a high point, such as the Cerro de los Ángeles. As for your choice of camera, Del Campo recommends “a good SLR that works well in conditions of low light. Although, he adds, “this is like Formula 1 – most of the time, the most important thing is the driver rather than the car.”

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