Sunsets 2.0

These days there is lots of talk of Web 2.0. As far as I can tell Web 2.0 is partly about social networking websites and partly about the construction and use of web-based services that people can adapt and combine to make cool applications that weren't possible (or nobody had thought of) before. Examples of the social sites are MySpace and Wikipedia whilst Google Maps is a great web service spawning a glut of spin-offs such as Frappr. There are other sites which I guess are a combination of the two such as YouTube and Flickr. These both have content created by the community and allow others to be imaginative with the use of that content.

Via Nick Bramhall I just found an inspiring use of the photo sharing site, Flickr. Flickr user jbum appears to have painstakingly trawled the site for images tagged sunset and over-plotted them using the photograph time-stamp and the day of the year. The resulting plot (follow the link and check it out) has an obvious sinusoidal curve that has an earliest time for sunset near the end of December and a latest sunset around the end of June. This is exactly what you would expect for a location in the northern hemisphere, as the earliest and latest sunsets are close to the summer and winter solstices (but not necessarily on them). It is really cool to be able to make a plot like this. It has either involved a lot of time and effort or a good amount of clever programming.

Looking at the plot, I was surprised by the width of the sunset line as it implies that most of the users of Flickr are in a fairly narrow range of latitudes and very few southern hemispherians choosing to take shots of sunsets! I guess that most of the users must be in the US, Europe and Japan as that would limit the latitude range and be biased towards the northern hemisphere. However, jbum has attempted to make a similar plot of southern hemisphere sunsets (I don't know how he filtered for hemisphere though) and that shows the opposite trend to the northern hemisphere. That is reassuring as it is what you would expect from a tilted, spherical Earth! But wait! He doesn't stop there. For a finale he plots a year of sunrises and a year of full moons.

I'm sure the creators of Flickr never imagined that their site would result in something like this. The web does produce some amazing results.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 28th Mar 2007 (17:40 GMT) | Permalink
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