Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dawn, dusk, sunrise, sunset and twilight

Dawn occurs before sunrise, before the top of the Sun reaches the horizon. Astronomical Dawn is the point at which it becomes possible to detect light in the sky, when the sun is 18° below the horizon. Nautical Dawn occurs at 12° below the horizon, when it becomes possible to see the horizon properly and distinguish some objects. Civil Dawn occurs when the sun is 6° below the horizon and there is enough light for activities to take place without artificial lighting.

Dusk occurs after sunset, once the top of the Sun has passed the horizon. As with dawn there is astronomical dusk, nautical dusk and civil dusk, occurring at 18°, 12° and 6° below the horizon respectively.

Twilight is the name given to the period between dawn and sunrise, or between sunset and dusk, when light is still visible in the sky due to sunlight scattering off the atmosphere. It can also be separated in astronomical, nautical and civil sections by how far below the horizon the Sun is.


Sunrise and sunset are the points at which the top edge of the Sun reaches the horizon; the only difference between them is the direction in which the Sun is moving at the time. It actually occurs when the top of the Sun is 0.57° below the horizon due to refraction of the Sun’s light by the atmosphere.

Energy density of coal

One kilogram of coal contains between fourteen and thirty-three megajoules of chemical potential energy, depending on the type of coal (lignite, bitumous or anthracite).

Coal also contains trace amounts of uranium, ranging from one to ten parts per million; in a worst-case scenario one kilogram of coal could therefore be expected to contain one thousandth of one gram of uranium. As uranium has an energy density of 79.5 trillion joules per kilogram that means that one kilogram of coal contains 79.5 megajoules of energy as nuclear potential energy.

Or in graph format (and remember, this is the best-case scenario for coal and the worst-case scenario for uranium):


So there you have it: you can get more energy out of coal by grinding it up and extracting the uranium than you can from actually burning it in a coal-fired power station.*

(It’s also worth noting that coal contains about two-and-a-half times as much thorium as it does uranium, and that thorium is also a nuclear fuel.)

* You could of course burn the coal first, and then extract the uranium from the ash produced, but unlike nuclear power, burning coal is bad for the environment.