Earth's Shadow and the 'Belt of Venus' Arc Over La Palma in a Scenic Panorama (Photo)

Earth's shadow and the Belt of Venus loom above the horizon behind the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma in this panorama by astrophotographer Chirag Upreti.  (Image credit: Chirag Upreti)

In this gorgeous panorama from the Canary Islands, planet Earth is casting a shadow onto its own atmosphere, creating a dark blue arc in the evening twilight. Just above the shadow, a pink glow known as the Belt of Venus adorns the sky.  

Astrophotographer Chirag Upreti captured this view from the island of La Palma, which is home to some of the world's most powerful telescopes. Pictured here are the Nordic Optical Telescope (on the left) and the William Herschel Telescope, the large white telescope with an onion-shaped dome. To its right are several smaller telescopes, including the Dutch Open Telescope, the Swedish Solar Telescope and the Isaac Newton Telescope

"On this evening after sunset, the brilliant blue of the rising Earth's shadow caught me completely off guard," Upreti told "I took an eight-shot panorama to capture the shadow over the mountain, with the dreamy clouds that rolled in the caldera below." [10 Biggest Telescopes on Earth: How They Measure Up]

Earth's shadow is easiest to see above a flat horizon from high elevations. So, Upreti ventured to Roque de los Muchachos, the highest point on the island of La Palma, and pointed his camera toward the sea. 

Our planet's shadow and the Belt of Venus tend to appear together during civil twilight when the sky is clear. During sunset, the shadow appears to rise into the sky, and it recedes into the horizon at sunrise. 

The Belt of Venus appears pink for the same reason that sunsets and sunrises paint the sky with similar shades. As sunlight travels through Earth's atmosphere and scatters off of particles, shorter wavelengths of light, like blue, are scattered more strongly than longer wavelengths, like red. During sunrises and sunsets, sunlight travels a longer distance through Earth's atmosphere before reaching our eyes, and so more blue light gets scattered along the way. The red, orange and yellow shades of light then take over the sky, giving us our picture-perfect sunsets — and the Belt of Venus. 

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.