SunKit is a Swift package which uses advanced math and trigonometry to compute several information about the Sun. This package has been developed by a team of students not yet very familiar with the Swift programming language, which means that there could be a lot of space for improvements. Every contribution is welcome.


SunKit was first developed as part of a bigger project: Litt ( Even though Litt is not meant to be released as Open Source, me and the rest of the team behind it decided to wrap the fundamental logic of the app and make a library out of it.

To compute Sunrise, Sunset, Golden Hour and so on we only need a CLLocation and the time zone of that location. CoreLocation and SwiftUI framework are required for SunKit to work.

Local Solar Time Meridian

The Local Standard Time Meridian is a reference meridian used for a particular time zone and is similar to the Prime Meridian, which is used for Greenwich Mean Time. The LSTM is calculated according to the equation:

$$LSTM= 15° \Delta T_{U T C}$$

where $\Delta T_{U T C}$ is the difference of the Local Time (LT) from Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) in hours. For instance, Rome Italy is UTC (+2) so the Local Standard Time Meridian is $30°$.

private var localStandardTimeMeridian: Double {
   return timeZone * 15

The Equation Of Time

The equation of time (EoT) (in minutes) is an empirical equation that corrects for the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and the Earth’s axial tilt. An approximation 2 accurate to within $\frac{1}{2}$ minute is:

$$E o T=9.87 \sin (2 B)-7.53 \cos (B)-1.5 \sin (B)$$



in degrees and $(d)$ is thenumber of days since the start of the year.

private var b: Angle {
   let angleInDegrees: Double = (360 / 365 * Double(daysPassedFromStartOfYear - 81))
   return .degrees(angleInDegrees)
private var equationOfTime: Double {
   let bRad = b.radians
   return 9.87 * sin(2 * bRad) - 7.53 * cos(bRad) - 1.5 * sin(bRad)

private func getDaysPassedFromStartOfTheYear() throws -> Int {
   let year =  calendar.component(.year, from: date)
   dateFormatter.dateFormat = "yyyy/mm/dd"
   dateFormatter.calendar = calendar
   guard let dataFormatted = "\(year)/01/01") else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateStartOfTheYear(from: date)
   let startOfYear = calendar.startOfDay(for: dataFormatted)
   let startOfDay = calendar.startOfDay(for: date)
   guard var daysPassedFromStartOfTheYear = calendar.dateComponents([.day], from: startOfYear, to: startOfDay).day else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateDaysPassedFromStartOfTheYear(from: startOfYear, to: startOfDay)

   //It Doesn't count the current day
   daysPassedFromStartOfTheYear = daysPassedFromStartOfTheYear + 1
   return daysPassedFromStartOfTheYear

The calendar variable it’s a private varibale inside the Sun struct, it’s initialised with the gregorian identifier.

private var calendar: Calendar = .init(identifier: .gregorian)

We need this variable because an user could use a different calendar in his phone, such as Japanese.

Time Correction Factor

The net Time Correction Factor (in minutes) accounts for the variation of the Local Solar Time (LST) within a given time zone due to the longitude variations within the time zone and also incorporates the EoT above.

$$T C=4(\text { Longitude }-L S T M)+E o T$$

The factor of 4 minutes comes from the fact that the Earth rotates $1°$ every 4 minutes.

private var timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds: Double {
   let timeCorrectionFactor = 4 * (location.coordinate.longitude - localStandardTimeMeridian) + equationOfTime
   let minutes: Double = Double(Int(timeCorrectionFactor) * 60)
   let seconds: Double = timeCorrectionFactor.truncatingRemainder(dividingBy: 1) * 100
   let timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds =  minutes + seconds
   return timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds

The timeCorrectionFactor variable it’s in the form mm:ss, that’s why we extract first the minutes and then the seconds to compute timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds variable that we need.

Local Solar Time

Twelve noon local solar time (LST) is defined as when the sun is highest in the sky. Local time (LT) usually varies from LST because of the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit, and because of human adjustments such as time zones and daylight saving.

The Local Solar Time (LST) can be found by using the previous two corrections to adjust the local time (LT).

$$LST= LT + \frac{TC}{60}$$

private func getLocalSolarTime() throws -> Double {
   guard let localSolarDate = .second, value: Int(timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds), to: date) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateLocalSolarDate(from: date, byAdding: timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds)
   dateFormatter.dateFormat = "mm"
   guard var localSolarTimeMinute = Double(dateFormatter.string(from: localSolarDate)) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateLocalSolarTimeMinute(from: localSolarDate)
   localSolarTimeMinute = localSolarTimeMinute / 100
   let localSolarTimeHour = Double(calendar.component(.hour, from: localSolarDate))
   localSolarTimeMinute *= 0.5084745763 / 0.299
   return localSolarTimeHour + localSolarTimeMinute

The date variable inside the Sun struct gives us the time at which we have to compute the azimuth. But before compute it we need to compute the Local Solar Time. Basically here the second row compute the equation. We don’t need to divide the TC beacuse we already have it in seconds. We then extract the minutes and the hour from the date. For computation purpouse, we use a proportion to move the variable localSolarTimeMinute from 0…59 range to the range 0…100.

Hour Angle

The Hour Angle converts the local solar time (LST) into the number of degrees which the sun moves across the sky. By definition, the Hour Angle is $0°$ at solar noon. Since the Earth rotates $15°$ per hour, each hour away from solar noon corresponds to an angular motion of the sun in the sky of $15°$. In the morning the hour angle is negative, in the afternoon the hour angle is positive.

$$HRA= 15° + (LST – 12)$$

private var hourAngle: Angle {
   let angleInDegrees: Double = (localSolarTime - 12.0) * 15
   return .init(degrees: angleInDegrees)

Declination Angle

The declination angle, denoted by $(\delta)$, varies seasonally due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis of rotation and the rotation of the Earth around the sun. If the Earth were not tilted on its axis of rotation, the declination would always be $0°$. However, the Earth is tilted by $23.45°$ and the declination angle varies plus or minus this amount. Only at the spring and fall equinoxes is the declination angle equal to $0°$. The rotation of the Earth around the sun and the change in the declination angle is shown in the animation below. To compute the declinaiton angle of the Earth:

$$\delta=23.45^{\circ} \times \sin \left(\frac{360}{365} \times(d-81)\right)$$

private var declination: Angle {
   let bRad = b.radians
   let declinationInDegree: Double = 23.45 * sin(bRad)
   return .init(degrees: declinationInDegree)

Elevation Angle

The elevation angle (used interchangeably with altitude angle) is the angular height of the sun in the sky measured from the horizontal. Confusingly, both altitude and elevation are also used to describe the height in meters above sea level. The elevation is $0°$ at sunrise and 90° when the sun is directly overhead (which occurs for example at the equator on the spring and fall equinoxes).It can be computed as follow.

$$\alpha=\sin ^{-1}[\sin \delta \sin \varphi+\cos \delta \cos \varphi \cos (H R A)]$$

Here $HRA$ is the hour angle that we already have computed, $(\phi)$ is the latitude, and $(\delta)$ is the declination angle that we evaluated already in the previous chapter.

public var elevation: Angle {
   get {
      let declinationRad = declination.radians
      let hourAngleRad = hourAngle.radians
      let latitude: Angle = .degrees(location.coordinate.latitude)
      let latitudeRad = latitude.radians
      var elevationArg = sin(declinationRad) * sin(latitudeRad) + cos(declinationRad) * cos(latitudeRad) * cos(hourAngleRad)
      elevationArg = checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: elevationArg)
      let elevationInRadians: Double = asin(elevationArg)
      return .init(radians: elevationInRadians)

Azimuth Angle

The azimuth angle is the compass direction from which the sunlight is coming. At solar noon, the sun is always directly south in the northern hemisphere and directly north in the southern hemisphere. The azimuth angle varies throughout the day as shown in the animation below. At the equinoxes, the sun rises directly east and sets directly west regardless of the latitude, thus making the azimuth angles 90° at sunrise and 270° at sunset. In general however, the azimuth angle varies with the latitude and time of year and the full equations to calculate the sun’s position throughout the day are given on the following page.

It can be calculated as follow:

$$Azimuth=cos^{-1}[\frac{sin\delta cos\varphi-cos\delta sin \varphi cos(HRA)}{cos\alpha}]$$

private func getAzimuth() throws -> Double {
   let hourAngleRad = hourAngle.radians
   let declinationRad = declination.radians
   let latitude: Angle = .degrees(location.coordinate.latitude)
   let latitudeRad = latitude.radians
   let elevationRad = elevation.radians
   var azimuthArg = (sin(declinationRad) * cos(latitudeRad) - cos(declinationRad) * sin(latitudeRad) * cos(hourAngleRad)) / cos(elevationRad)
   azimuthArg = checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: azimuthArg)
   let azimuthRad: Double = acos(azimuthArg)
   guard !azimuthRad.isInfinite else {
      throw SunError.azimuthIsInfinite
   let azimuthAngle: Angle = .init(radians: azimuthRad)
   var azimuth = azimuthAngle.degrees
   if localSolarTime > 12 {
      azimuth = 360 - azimuth
   return azimuth

The above equation only gives the correct azimuth in the solar morning so that:

  • $$(Azimuth = A_{zi}, for LST <12)$$

  • $$(Azimuth = 360° – A_{zi}, for LST > 12)$$

The checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction simply check if the argument that will go inside the asin function or acos it’s inside the domain, that is betweent -1 and 1. It’s necessary beacuse with al these computations, it could happen that we could have as argument for acos function or asin function 1,003 instead of 1. This could happen if you pin yourself near one of the two poles.

private func checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: Double) -> Double {
   let inDomainValue: Double
   if argument > 1 {
      inDomainValue = 1.0
   } else if argument < -1 {
      inDomainValue = -1.0
   } else {
      inDomainValue = argument
   return inDomainValue

Sunrise, Sunset and Solar Noon

For the special case of sunrise or sunset, the zenith is set to (the approximate correction for atmospheric refraction at sunrise and sunset, and the size of the solar disk), and the hour angle becomes:

$$ha=\pm \arccos \frac{\cos (90.833)}{\cos (l a t) \cos (d e c l)}-\tan (l a t) \tan (\text { decl })$$

Then the UTC time of sunrise (or sunset) in minutes is:

$$Sunrise/Sunset = 720 -4 *(longitude + ha) – EoT$$

For UTC solar noon:

$$snoon = 720 – 4 * longitude – EoT$$

Please note that this is for UTC Sunrise, Sunset and Solar Noon.We have to convert it in your local time based on your time zone.

private func getSunrise() throws -> Date {
   let latitude: Angle = .degrees(location.coordinate.latitude)
   let latitudeRad = latitude.radians
   let declinationRad = declination.radians
   var haArg = (cos(Angle.degrees(90.833).radians)) / (cos(latitudeRad) * cos(declinationRad)) - tan(latitudeRad) * tan(declinationRad)
   haArg = checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: haArg)
   let ha: Angle = .init(radians: acos(haArg))
   let sunriseUTCMinutes = 720 - 4 * (location.coordinate.longitude + ha.degrees) - equationOfTime
   let sunriseSeconds = (sunriseUTCMinutes + timeZone * 60 ) * 60
   let startOfDay = calendar.startOfDay(for: date)
   guard var sunriseDate = .second, value: Int(sunriseSeconds), to: startOfDay) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateSunriseDate(from: date)
   let hoursMinutesSeconds: (Int,Int,Int) = secondsToHoursMinutesSeconds(Int(sunriseSeconds))
   sunriseDate = hoursMinutesSeconds.0 , minute: hoursMinutesSeconds.1, second: hoursMinutesSeconds.2, of: sunriseDate) ?? startOfDay
   return sunriseDate

private func getSunset() throws -> Date {
   let secondsInOneDay: Double = 86399
   let latitude: Angle = .degrees(location.coordinate.latitude)
   let latitudeRad = latitude.radians
   let declinationRad = declination.radians
   var haArg = (cos(Angle.degrees(90.833).radians)) / (cos(latitudeRad) * cos(declinationRad)) - tan(latitudeRad) * tan(declinationRad)
   haArg = checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: haArg)
   let ha: Angle = .init(radians: -acos(haArg))
   let sunsetUTCMinutes = 720 - 4 * (location.coordinate.longitude + ha.degrees) - equationOfTime
   var sunsetSeconds = (sunsetUTCMinutes + timeZone * 60 ) * 60
   let startOfDay = calendar.startOfDay(for: date)
   if sunsetSeconds > secondsInOneDay {
      sunsetSeconds = 86399
   guard var sunsetDate = .second, value: Int(sunsetSeconds), to: startOfDay) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateSunsetDate(from: date)
   let hoursMinutesSeconds: (Int,Int,Int) = secondsToHoursMinutesSeconds(Int(sunsetSeconds))
   sunsetDate = hoursMinutesSeconds.0 , minute: hoursMinutesSeconds.1, second: hoursMinutesSeconds.2, of: sunsetDate) ?? Date()
   return sunsetDate

private func getSolarNoon() throws -> Date {
   let secondsForUTCSolarNoon = (720 - 4 * location.coordinate.longitude - equationOfTime) * 60
   let secondsForSolarNoon = secondsForUTCSolarNoon + 3600 * timeZone
   let startOfTheDay = calendar.startOfDay(for: date)
   guard var solarNoon = .second, value: Int(secondsForSolarNoon), to: startOfTheDay) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateSolarNoon(from: date)
   let hoursMinutesSeconds: (Int,Int,Int) = secondsToHoursMinutesSeconds(Int(secondsForSolarNoon))
   solarNoon = hoursMinutesSeconds.0 , minute: hoursMinutesSeconds.1, second: hoursMinutesSeconds.2, of: solarNoon) ?? Date()
   return solarNoon

Golden Hour

In photography, the golden hour is the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky.

By definition, golden hour starts when the sun it’s at elevation; and ends when it is at elevation.

Do compute it we have the function getDateFrom(elevation : Angle) , where we pass in it the angle and it outputs the time at which the sun will reach that elevation.

private func getGoldenHourStart() throws -> Date {
   let elevationSunGoldenHourStart: Angle = .init(degrees: 6.0)
   guard let goldenHourStart = getDateFrom(elevation: elevationSunGoldenHourStart) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateGoldenHourStart(from: date)
   return goldenHourStart

private func getGoldenHourFinish() throws -> Date {
   let elevationSunGoldenHourFinish: Angle = .init(degrees: -4.0)
   guard let goldenHourFinish = getDateFrom(elevation: elevationSunGoldenHourFinish) else {
      throw SunError.unableToGenerateGoldenHourFinish(from: date)
   return goldenHourFinish

To get a date from elevation we need to do three step, the first one it’s to compute HRA from the elevation in input.

$$HRA=\arccos \frac{\sin (\alpha) – \sin (decl)\sin (lat)}{\cos (l a t) \cos (d e c l)}$$

After that we need now to compute the local solar time (LST) with the following equation:

$$LST = 12 + (\frac{HRA}{15°})$$

The last step it’s to compute the local time (LT).

$$LT = LST – TC$$

private func getDateFrom(elevation : Angle) -> Date? {
   let secondsInOneDay: Double = 86399
   let elevationRad = elevation.radians
   let latitude: Angle = .degrees(location.coordinate.latitude)
   let latitudeRad = latitude.radians
   let declinationRad = declination.radians
   var cosHra = (sin(elevationRad) - sin(declinationRad) * sin(latitudeRad)) / (cos(declinationRad) * cos(latitudeRad))
   cosHra = checkDomainForArcSinCosineFunction(argument: cosHra)
   let hraAngle: Angle = .radians(acos(cosHra))
   var secondsForSunToReachElevation = (hraAngle.degrees / 15) * 3600  + 43200 - timeCorrectionFactorInSeconds
   let startOfTheDay = calendar.startOfDay(for: date)
   if secondsForSunToReachElevation > secondsInOneDay {
      secondsForSunToReachElevation = 86399
   let hoursMinutesSeconds: (Int,Int,Int) = secondsToHoursMinutesSeconds(Int(secondsForSunToReachElevation))
   var newDate = .second, value: Int(secondsForSunToReachElevation), to: startOfTheDay)
   newDate = hoursMinutesSeconds.0 , minute: hoursMinutesSeconds.1, second: hoursMinutesSeconds.2, of:newDate  ?? Date())
   return newDate

In this function we compute the equations at row 9. The tenth row simply compute, where 43200 it’s simple 12 hour in seconds, and we multiply $((\frac{HRA}{15°}))$ by 3600 to convert this factor also in seconds.

The if at row 13 is used beacuse near the poles could happen that the sun will never reach that elevation, for example in summer in the north pole is always day. The code in row 20 is needed because will add one hour more the day where the time zone goes from +1 to +2. For example in Italy this happen 27 March. Also the viceversa will happen of course.


Special thanks


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