Using polarized light to locate the Sun when it is hidden from view.

Using polarized light to locate the Sun when it is hidden from view.

by tonytran2015 (Melbourne, Australia).

Click here for a full, up to date ORIGINAL ARTICLE and to help fighting the stealing of readers’ traffic.

#find, #finding, #Sun, #North, #navigation, #survival, #find the Sun, #polarize, #light, #ray, #Sunlight, #Sunray, #sunglasses, #compass, #direction, #time

Anti-glare polarizing sunglasses reduce horizontally polarized rays. They can also be useful in locating the Sun even when it is hidden from view by clouds or by the horizon. Locating the Sun enables determination of compass direction and time for navigation without any compass.

1. Basic information

Two walkie-talkies are in the best condition for communication when their two antennas are parallel and at right angle to their line of view. The electric waves traveling between them have their electric field parallel to the emitting antenna and the varying electric field is at right angle to the line of transmission. The electromagnetic waves is said to be polarized in the direction of the emitting antenna.

Light is just electromagnetic waves at much higher frequencies than our familiar radio waves. Light can be polarized too. Light rays from incandescent sources are randomly polarized like radio waves coming from a walkie-talkie which is randomly orientated before each transmission. On the average we don’t see any polarization from a source with randomly changing orientation. However after a partial reflection (accompanied by a partial transmission) at an interface between two transmission media, the reflected and the transmitted rays from any non-polarized ray becomes partially polarized.

Polarizing sunglasses can favour light polarized in one direction and discriminate against light polarized in the other direction. With the same pair of sunglasses we can see two different colours and brightnesses depending on the orientation of the glasses when viewing the same source. This is illustrated in the following figure.

Be certain that your polarizing glasses really reduces sunlight reflecting off horizontal road surfaces before trying subsequent instructions here; each of the glasses must be individually tested and its direction of polarization verified.

2. Different colours and degrees of brightness seen from the same source of light through polarizing sunglasses

skylight through polarizing sunglasses

The cross with two different colours on the source denotes the two different colours seen through two orientations of the same sunglasses.

3. Seeing the polarized lights of the sky

polarization of scattered blue sunlight

The polarization of scattered blue sunlight in the sky

Blue light from the sky is the result of Rayleigh scattering of photons from sunlight by molecules in the sky. This scattered light is highly polarized as seen in the following practice:

Search for a large clear patch of sky with no cloud. Look through the polarizing glasses. Rotate the glasses about the axis of view to see the sky lightens and darkens alternatingly with the angle of rotation. The darkening is most profound when the Sun is at right angle to the line of view.

4. Locating the hidden Sun.

Locating the hidden Sun using polarized light

Locating the hidden Sun from two patches of clear sky.

1/- Search for a large clear patch of sky with no cloud. Rotate the glasses about the axis of view until the clear sky becomes most darkened. The Sun is then on the great circle perpendicular to the line joining the left and right spectacles (Being the intersection of the Celestial sphere and the symmetry plane of the sunglasses). The darkening is most profound when the Sun is at right angle to the line of view.

2/- Repeat with a second clear patch of the sky. Two large clear patches of the sky can give out the position of the hidden Sun. It is at the intersection of the two so obtained great circles in the sky.

3/- The position of the Sun below the sky-line can also be found using polarized light-rays from the clear sky above its (underground) line of view. If the illustration picture of this section is turned up side down with a horizon line added above its Sun it will illustrate how to find the Sun when it is below the horizon (The polarization is most profound on the clear sky at 90 degree to the (underground) line of view of the Sun.).

Reference [2] gives some interesting history of the early applications of polarization of light. Currently there have even been hypotheses that the Vikings had used polarized light to locate the Sun since antiquity with pieces of birefringent calcite crystals [1].


[1]. Cahal Milmo, Not just the stuff of legend: Famed Viking ‘sunstone’ did exist, believe scientists,
The Independent,, 06 March 2013, 21 May 2015.

[2]. Unknown Authors, Polarization (waves), Wikipedia,… 26 May 2015

[3]. Unknown Authors, Following the Light of the Sky,,… Accessed 16 May 2015 05:40:14 GMT.

[4]. tonytran2015, Finding North direction and time using the Sun and a divider,, 06 May 2015.

(The following is added after 20 May 2017)

[5]. Israel Ramirez,, 28 Nov 2016.

[6]. tonytran2015, Finding North in the polar zones using equatorial stars and the Sun,, posted May 24, 2017,


Finding North in the polar zones using equatorial stars and the Sun, posted May 24, 2017,

Find North with Orion Equatorial stars

Finding directions and time using the Sun and a divider., posted on May 6, 2015.


find North by the Sun

Finding-time-to-sunset-with-bare-hands/, posted November 11, 2015,

Navigating with an AM MW radio receiver, posted January 17, 2017, The Scorpius constellation, posted January 8, 2017, The Orion constellation., posted December 26, 2016, Rice as emergency food., Using GPS in off-grid situations, Slide Sky-Disks with grid masks showing azimuths and altitudes, Slide Sky-Map for displaying tropical stars.

Click here for my other blogs on divider43.jpgSURVIVAL



Click here go to Divider63D400 Home Page (Navigation-Survival-How To-Money).

SUBSCRIPTION: [RSS – Posts], [RSS – Comments]

MENU: [Contents][Blog Image of Contents ][Archives ] [About]

74 thoughts on “Using polarized light to locate the Sun when it is hidden from view.

  1. This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses.


  2. hello there and thank you for your information –I have certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however experienced some few technical issues using this website, since I experienced to reload the website a lot of times until I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances will affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content.
    Make sure that you update this again soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’reYou are so interesting! I do believe I have truly read through anything thing like this before. So nice to discover somebody with genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that is needed on the web , someone with a little bit of originality!


  4. I amI’m extremelyreally impressed with your writing skills and alsoas well as with the layout on your blogweblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customizemodify it yourself? Either wayAnyway keep up the niceexcellent quality writing, it’sit is rare to see a nicegreat blog like this one these daysnowadaystoday.


  5. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work..


  6. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work..


  7. (I wish to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this particular trouble.As a result of checking through the net and meeting techniques that were not productive, I thought my life was done.


  8. You can now obtain a pair of REAL polarizing sunglasses, at only $10 each. You can then play with seeing the darkening or brightening of sky patches.


  9. Can you tell us more about thisI’d like to find out moreDo you have any video of that? I’d carelikelovewant to find out more detailssome additional information.


  10. Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest authoring
    on other websites? I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my viewers would value your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free
    to shoot me an email.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re
    using? I’m planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time
    deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
    for something completely unique. P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!


  12. Hi there I am so thrilled I found your website, I really found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Yahoo for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a tremendous post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the awesome job.


  13. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it
    has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you
    a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!


    • Thank you for letting me know. This compatibility issue seems to be only from mobile Explorer.
      I checked it many times with desk top Explorer and have not spotted the problem.


  14. I have to admit that after receiving some of these great post on my email and reading through them, I have found on this blog a huge source of valuable information that helps me climb to a higher level everyday.


  15. I used to be more than happy to search out this web-site.I needed to thanks for your time for this excellent read!! I positively having fun with every little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, you should not exchange links with other sites!

      If any such site is sold to any unethical new owner, your readers may get infested with malwares just by clicking on the links provided by you!

      The consequence is terrible!


  16. Once I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. Is there any means you’ll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!


  17. Nice blog right here! Additionally your web site quite a bit up fast!
    What web host are you using? Can I am getting your affiliate
    hyperlink to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol
    Wow, amazing weblog format! How long have you been blogging for?…

    I havenˇt checked in here for some time as I thought
    it was getting boring, but the last several posts are
    good quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist.
    You deserve it friend 🙂
    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I
    used to love this web site. Thank you, I will try and
    check back more often. How frequently you update your website


  18. whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You know, a lot of people are hunting around for this info, you could help them greatly.


Comments are closed.