This Cool Website Will Show You Whether It Will Be Light Outside During Your Flight

While I doubt this website will change anyone’s life, I still find to be a pretty useful tool. I’m sure we’ve all taken longhaul flights where we’re not quite sure whether it will be light or dark outside.

Timezones can be confusing, especially with the international dateline throwing things off. Furthermore, there’s seasonal variability that impacts daylight hours differently all over the world. The only thing that’s consistent is that daylight changes more quickly when flying east and more slowly when flying west.

While I generally know whether it’ll be dark or light on a given flight, I’m sometimes surprised by how quickly or how slowly the light changes. If this is something you’ve ever wondered about, there’s a website called sunflight.net that shows you how much light or darkness you should expect during a given flight.

Let’s use my flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney as an example. The website just asks you to enter your origin, destination, date of travel, and length of flight.

Sunflight-1

Then it shows you a map with a button you can use to scroll through the flight path. As the position of your flight and the sun changes, you can see whether it’s going to be light or dark outside.

Sunflight-2

This is fun to play around with, especially when you look at flights involving Northern Europe, where the variability between summer and winter can be massive.

So, what are the practical uses for a tool like this?

  • If you’re flying the 787 (which doesn’t typically have window shades), it pays to sit on the opposite side of the plane of the sun, because even with the window dimming technology, some light and heat still gets through
  • Even if not flying the 787, it generally pays to not sit on the same side of the plane as the sun — the other side typically has less glare, which is ideal whether you just want to stare out the window, or whether you want to take pictures
  • Knowing the outside conditions during a given flight can help you fight jetlag

Like I said, it’s not life changing, but I’m happy to have found sunflight.net, and figured I’d pass it on, since I’m sure others will like it as well.

Comments

  1. If you like trying to see the northern lights on flights, you want to know whether you’ll have darkness when your flight hits the northern latitudes. Computing this can be a bit time consuming, so I’ll find this super-useul. Thanks!

  2. Can also be useful for calculating the salaah prayer times for a flight, which depend on when the sun sets and rises.

  3. @Philip. Don’t know if we were on the same flight but I was in J on TG from FRA to BKK on April 29. If it is not the same web site, it is definitely very similar.

  4. Hi Ben thanks for writing up about sunflight and I’m glad you and your readers find it useful!

    Would you believe I wrote the code for this way back in 2011! The source code is on github (see links in the website) if anyone would like to improve it or turn it into an app.

    Cheers,
    Ian

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