Understanding the properties of time-varying illumination spectra is of importance in all applications where dynamical color changes due to changes in illumination characteristics have to be analyzed or synthesized. Examples are (dynamical) color constancy and the creation of realistic animations. In this article we show how group theoretical methods can be used to describe sequences of time changing illumination spectra with only few parameters. From the description we can also derive a differential equation that describes the illumination changes. We illustrate the method with investigations of black-body radiation and measured sequences of daylight spectra.