Predicting the perfect sunset

The perfect sunset lights up the skies with stunning colors and dramatic views. Now you will never miss one thanks to former and current Penn State students who built a model that predicts when and where a perfect sunset will occur.


The perfect sunset lights up the skies with stunning colors and dramatic views, a sight not to be missed and you may not have to miss one ever again, thanks to former and current Penn State students.

They've built a model that predicts when and where a perfect sunset will occur.

Take a look.

Sunset is no mystery.

We know to the minute what time it happens every day.

But you never really know for sure if the evening will simply fade to black... ...or flare up for a glorious finale.

Until now.

A group of former and current Penn State students are using the same data meteorologists use to predict the weather to predict fiery skies, and it all got started with a box of pizza.

We knew Steve was one of the best computer programmers we knew here at Penn State University, and he was a meteorologist and a meteorology student.

So, Jake and Ben actually messaged me.

I was a sophomore at the time, and they promised me free food.

Of course I said yes.

That meeting between Jacob Deflitch, Steve Hallett, and Ben Reppert was the beginning of

The website publishes four maps a day predicting the best places on the planet to view vivid sunsets and sunrises.

But before they could forecast beauty, they needed to define it.

So, the biggest concern right off the bat was the fact that if you asked 10 people what their version of a great sunset is, you'd probably get 10 different answers.

So then we started thinking to ourselves, 'Okay, what constitutes a good sunset?'

The group opted for vivid colors over clear skies, and that was the foundation for their formula.

It takes into consideration moisture at more than a dozen different layers of the atmosphere, pressure patterns, and clouds -- an ingredient the group considers the canvas for the perfect sunset.

It's kind of if you think of like a big projector screen at a drive-in movie, the radiation, the visible light from the sun illuminates the underside of a deck of high clouds and then projects light onto it.

A custom algorithm crunches the data and scores the best locations with the brightest colors.

It didn't take long for the concept to catch on.

So, on the 22nd of November, four days after our launch, our model was predicting this incredible strip of color along I-95.

The big hubs -- Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston.

And we thought, 'Okay, tonight's gonna be, like, a crazy night for interacting.'

They were right.

This is the map they put out, and this was the sky.

And I was -- 'Okay, well, this is just about to go next level,' and then, you know, CBS contacted us.

How do you predict the perfect sunset?

We've decided to go along a scale of vividness.

How bright.

Yes, how bright -- I guess you could say the 'Wow' factor.

Since that forecast in 2015, has been featured on 'CBS Saturday Morning,' 'Good Morning America,' and on websites like Slate and

So I wanted to find out for myself.

Does it work?

All right, so I'm standing outside of my office at Innovation Park.

The map was a bright orange when I left.

Take a look at the sky.

It's beautiful, full of bright pinks, oranges... This video probably won't do it justice, but it is awesome.

I would say that this is a verified forecast for tonight.

We touched on a lot of photographers, meteorologists, television meteorologists, filmmakers.

We really opened up our own eyes to just how much of an audience there is for this.

The team has recently brought on a fourth member to help them create an app and an interface that will allow outside developers to use their data.

But as they focus more energy on the business, they're trying not to forget the most important part of any sunset -- seeing it.

We get so caught up in our daily lives with using electronics, and we're stuck in an office behind a cubicle on a daily basis, that we seldom go out and just take a breather and enjoy what we have around us.

My goal is for it to be used by anyone who loves the sunset and sunrise.

The bottom line is provide a tangible relation between the weather.

Stopping and really taking time to pause within your busy day, and just admiring what nature has to give you.