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It was a bright and sunny day during April- May(can say, peak of summer) in a country in the northern hemisphere, near to the equator.

I was wandering(on foot) through this country's vast and open land - harsh desert - and in the evening seen a strange thing - the sun was setting in the East - for a while.

I am pretty sure about the directions and I was not mistaken.

How was this possible / it can be explained?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you on Earth? Is East the actual geographical direction as conventionally defined? Are you actually seeing the Sun or something looking like it? Is such a phenomenon possible other parts of the year? Other places on Earth? How long a while is that appearing? $\endgroup$ – DonkeyBanana Aug 22 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DonkeyBanana , yes I am on Earth. East is the actual geographical direction. Answering other questions... may work as obvious clues/hints to the asked question and thereby making the question easier. $\endgroup$ – Mea Culpa Nay Aug 22 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ How is April May "peak of summer?" Summer begins in mid June, so its peak would be end of July/early August. You are out by 3 months. Is this some sort of clue? $\endgroup$ – Octopus Aug 22 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ I kind of think this is too broad... $\endgroup$ – Duck Aug 22 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps an equinox is at play here in some fashion. @Duck, when do I get another riddle? $\endgroup$ – PerpetualJ Aug 23 at 15:07

15 Answers 15

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Perhaps you are witnessing the optical phenomenon known as:

Alpenglow or the Belt of Venus

A brief explanation:

Alpenglow = 'a reddish glow near the horizon opposite of the Sun when the solar disk is just below the horizon' (Wikipedia). Since the Sun has already gone below the horizon, this effect is brought about by light being reflected off precipitation or ice crystals in the air. The effect is most notable in mountain areas, where high mountains in the east are lit by the effect.

The Belt of Venus is a form of Alpenglow where the shadow of the Earth from the setting Sun causes the band of reddish colour to be separated from the horizon by a twilight-y darkness, giving it a more arched shape.

Since the writer is in the desert, this could possibly be happening in the Atlas mountain countries of North Africa.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't this ruled out when the narrator says "I was not mistaken"? $\endgroup$ – jafe Aug 22 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ @jafe I read that phrase as not being mistaken about looking East, due to the line immediately preceding it, rather than about it actually being the sunset they were seeing. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 23 at 18:04
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You were in the

Nubian Desert in Sudan.

You were navigating with your compass and walking east.
There are the remains of a meteorite that crashed there in 2008.
Fragments of it had been strewn across the desert as it broke up.
As sunset approached you walked past a lump of it.
The magnetic material of the meteorite affected your compass.
Suddenly, you realised you were walking towards the sun!
But you know that the sun cannot set in the east.
So you ignored the compass and continued walking away from the sun.
After a while the compass needle moved back to where it should be.
And so the sun set in its rightful place...

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    $\begingroup$ Looking at (rot13) Xunegbhz'f climate data, it actually appears to be warmer in April-May than July-August, so peak of summer may be accurate! $\endgroup$ – dissemin8or Aug 22 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ Whatever your compass reads doesn't change where the sun was setting. The sun is not setting in the east in this scenario. OP explicitly says they were not mistaken about the directions. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Aug 22 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ But the compass would be proof enough for anybody that they are indeed walking east. OP was fooled by the compass, but they didn't know they were mistaken. $\endgroup$ – ThePainfull Aug 23 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ThePainfull A compass pointing east at the setting sun isn't proof that you are indeed walking east - it's proof that your compass is broken. I have no clue how one could recognize that a sunset in the east is "a strange thing" but still be "pretty sure about the directions". Yep, this defies everything I know about the structure of the solar system, but the compass says east, so it must be right. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Aug 23 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @WeatherVane The OP says "I was not mistaken". I will be extremely disappointed if the answer to this puzzle of "why was the sun setting in the east" is "because I was facing west", precisely because the OP goes out of their way to assure us that the directions are correct. Again, what kind of person recognizes that their compass doesn't agree with the sun, and chooses to believe the compass? No one would recognize that an eastern sunset is strange and still be "pretty sure" that their compass is correct. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Aug 23 at 13:24
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Perhaps you

Passed through the Est Region in Burkina Faso at sunset.

Reasoning

When you say "the sun was setting in the East", you are referring to seeing the sun set in a place called the East. Given that it needs to be close to a desert and near the Equator, the Est Region (Est being the French for East) fits the bill perfectly.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would've said rot13("Rnfg Gvzbe"), but that's just slightly south of the Equator... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Aug 22 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds good to me, but this can't be right, because in a comment below the question the OP says, "East is the actual geographical direction." Yes, I understand that comment was made after you posted this as an answer. $\endgroup$ – Octopus Aug 22 at 17:58
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I'm guessing you were

On Venus, where the sun always sets in the East

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    $\begingroup$ But why did it set in the east only for a while? I think that's a hint $\endgroup$ – Matthias Nicklisch Aug 22 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ The sun rises in the East on Venus? What variant definition of "East" are you using? $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Aug 22 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Nevermind - I should have looked up the rotation information about Venus first. Venus's day is longer than its year, so the sun does indeed rise in the east. $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Aug 22 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ This also explains the disconnect between "April-May" and "peak of summer". But on the other hand, all extraterrestrial settings would seem to contradict "country" and "wandering (on foot)". $\endgroup$ – Paul Sinclair Aug 22 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if there are deserts on Venus but I'm positive that one can't walk there as the surface is liquid'ish. $\endgroup$ – DonkeyBanana Aug 22 at 17:36
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You are very close to the North or South Pole, and close to an equinox.

From near the poles the sun appears to almost describe a circle close to the horizon, rising and falling slightly relative to the horizon. Identify the direction in which the sun is descending. You can than make that direction 'East' by simply walking around the pole until you at a 90 degree angle of latitude relative to it.

For example, let's say it's close to an equinox and you are standing on the (geographic) North Pole. You see the sun describe an almost-circle around you, rising and lowering slightly. You observe, for the sake of argument, that it crosses the horizon in the direction of the Greenwich meridian. You can make the Greenwich meridian 'East' by simply walking a few steps down the 90 degree West meridian.

Hey Presto, the sun sets in the East.

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    $\begingroup$ "Near to the equator", saith the question... $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 22 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ 'Near' is relative. :-) :-) :-) :-) $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Aug 22 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think you can make all the clues fit this. There are countries with territory containing the area in your answer, that also have territory that fits the other clues. $\endgroup$ – THiebert Aug 22 at 21:02
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This is another possibility, though probably wrong, but I'm thinking you were:

behind a large natural arch of some sort. The sun was actually rising to the east, but as it passed behind the arch, you could say that it was technically setting, relative to the landscape behind you. You did say "for a while", meaning that as it continued to rise past the arch, it actually "rose" again and continued its path across the sky. Had you stayed there all day, it would have set a second time, in the west as one would expect. I've illustrated how it would work here: (facing east) enter image description here

You could also have been:

in an eastward facing cave mouth, for the same reason.

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  • $\begingroup$ But then the sun would be setting upward $\endgroup$ – ThePainfull Aug 23 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ThePainfull Indeed, but it's also setting eastward, so this is an unusual situation no matter what... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Aug 23 at 15:17
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While unlikely, it's possible that you saw a mirage or similar visual phenomenon - differences in air density meant that the sunrise occurred earlier than anticipated, but as the Sun heated the air it also changed the airs refractive behaviour, causing its image to set again (albeit briefly).

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    $\begingroup$ does this address the East vs West issue ? $\endgroup$ – Michael Durrant Aug 22 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ It does in the sense that the sun would still appear in the East - it would rise early, then the sunrise would appear to reverse creating the required Eastern sunset, then rise again. My biggest issue is that I couldn't find an exact circumstance that would cause such an effect even after looking at a few Wikipedia articles about mirages and other refractive phenomena. $\endgroup$ – ConMan Aug 22 at 23:07
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Because you are located in

the "East" or the "Eastern World" an area traditionally comprising anything east of Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_world. So looking in the cardinal direction West to watch the sun set it would appear to briefly set in the land of the "East".

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Maybe

you couldn't see the sun set in the west because it was blocked by a dune but you saw the reflection in the east in a small pond/ lake/ the sea?

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You were simply

walking towards a tall hill. As you got closer to the base of the hill, the sun appeared to sink behind it.

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This is my second, different (but incorrect) answer, based on an experience in USA.

I had hitched a ride east and was lying in the back of station wagon, looking out of the rear window. We were motoring across a rolling landscape and the sun was getting lower in the sky. Eventually as the road went down into a hollow the sun dipped below the horizon. When we went back up the other side the sun rose again (in the west). The scene repeated several times, until finally the sun failed to rise again. That evening I watched sunrise a dozen times, but in the west!

Now imagine walking towards the east. The sun rises in the east, and the path makes a dip into a hollow. As I walk down, the sun sets in the east. A few minutes later the path makes the slight climb out of the dip, the sun rises again, and by now is high enough that it does not "set" again.

The flaw in this solution is that the question states "in the evening".

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Could it be that...

Seeing the sunset in the East, is not refering to the position of the sun, but rather the posistion of the event. If you were at great height, you might be able to observe that in the East the sun is setting, it is getting dark and the ground it taking a distinctive red hue. Whereas to the West it can be seen that the Earth is still enjoying afternoon daylight. In effect you can see that the sun it setting in the East, and not yet (for a while) in the West.

Such a view might be plausible from

a desert at great altitude such as the Tibetan plateau.

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This is almost certainly wrong.

You were using a compass to determine magnetic North, and determined "East" to be the direction 90 degrees clockwise of north, as East normally is.

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You were walking really, really fast towards the west. Faster, in fact, than the rotational speed of the Earth, so the Sun would appear to be rising from the west, then setting in the east. Of course, walking at this speed is pretty tiring, stopping to rest puts the Sun back on it's correct path and setting again in the west...

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Maybe this one :

At the place you were, it was the evening. But at the same moment, further East, it was dawn : the Sun was setting.
You could have rephrased your sentence as : "Where I stood, it was the evening, but in the East, the Sun was already setting."

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