Dean M. Chriss
Pond and Tree, Winter Dawn, New Mexico

Pond and Tree, Winter Dawn, New Mexico

(Click image to enlarge)

This image was captured a few minutes before sunrise, just as the Belt of Venus is about to touch and illuminate the mountains. A winter storm of the previous day and 11 degree below zero Fahrenheit temperatures cloaked the landscape in a blanket of snow and frost.

The "Belt of Venus" is a phenomenon that is often seen but seldom recognized. Shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset an arched band that glows pinkish red first appears about 10° to 20° above the horizon. The arch is wide and flat enough that we often think it is flat. It is known as the twilight arch. The twilight arch is often separated from the horizon by a dark layer, which is the earth's shadow. The Belt of Venus is actually the boundary between day and night. This arch rotates downward, opposite the sun as it rises, and becomes the brilliant red light that illuminates objects on the horizon at sunrise.

In this photograph the sun has not yet risen and the bottom edge of the Belt of Venus is almost touching the mountains. Along with the foreground they are still in the earth's shadow but reflect the diffusely scattered and warmly colored light.