The Belt of Venus

Belt of Venus and hoarfrost covered trees at sunrise in Southcentral Alaska.

Photographers are students of light; the more we understand its varied qualities, the better we can capture it for others to see and appreciate.

A favorite atmospheric phenomenon of mine is called the Belt of Venus. Named for the breast-band (or girdle) of the Roman goddess, Venus, it is a pink glow that forms a narrow band about 10-20º above the horizon during civil twilight before sunrise or after sunset. Similar to alpenglow that appears on mountain tops, the pink phenomenon is caused by the Rayleigh scattering of sunlight as it passes through the atmosphere.

The Belt of Venus is more pronounced during the winter months. Living in the subarctic region of Alaska, I have observed that the color of the band intensifies as the temperature drops. When this photo of hoarfrost covered spruce and birch trees was taken the temperature was -19ºF.  The pink of the Belt of Venus is a beautiful, rich magenta which contrasts nicely with the dark green spruce.

Behind me the sun was rising.  The gun metal blue close to the horizon is the shadow of the earth looking towards the fading night.  There is no need to accentuate these colors in Photoshop!  The result is eye candy to this photographer and one in which many people will have to see in person to believe.

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