If you have noticed that the sunsets in your area have been just a tad more beautiful than normal - kind of like pink, purple, and orange watercolor paintings - then you are not mistaken. The stunning endings to our summer days are thanks to the Russian volcano, Sarychev Peak.
When it erupted on June 12, 2009, it spewed all kinds of volcanic gases, including sulfur dioxide, into the atmosphere, which have caused what is known as light scattering.
Light scattering is a well-known natural phenomenon and the reason for the color of our skies. During the day, when the sun is overhead, particles in the atmosphere scatter short wavelength blue light more effectively, which is why our skies appear blue. When the sun sets, its rays have more atmosphere to travel, so more of the long wavelength red light is apparent to us.
In this case, the sulfur dioxide is mixing with water vapor in clouds and then being refracted (changing direction) resulting in colors that range from scarlet to indigo, to appear in the skies.
The colors vary depending on the time of the day. Right at sunset, you will be able to spot white ripples to the West. As the evening progresses, lovely shades of 'volcano lavender', will show up in the horizon - And, If you're an early bird, you may even catch more shades before sunrise.
Since this was a fairly large eruption, with ashes and gases rising 65,000 feet and spreading out over thousands of miles, the effects will be seen for a few months - so in case you haven't had a chance to do so, be sure to look out West this evening, and admire our beautiful skies.