Nubble Moonrise and Rays

November 29, 2005

Nubblemoonrise copy

Provided and copyright by: Steve Kluge, Fox Lane High School
Summary authors & editors: Steve Kluge

While vacationing along the coast of Maine in August of 2005, my wife and I were treated to an incredible view of the rising nighttime sky over Nubble Light, near York Beach. A gentle sea breeze emerged earlier in the day, and a small scattering of cumulus clouds developed in the sea air rising over the warm land behind us. The rays of light and dark that appear to converge near the horizon are called anticrepuscular rays -- the darker areas are actually the parallel shadows of those clouds cast against the sky by the setting Sun. Perspective causes the apparent convergence of the rays at the anti-solar point in the sky. The band of pink sky that the almost full Moon seems to float on is called "Venus' Girdle" or the "Belt of Venus," which is the last bit of sky to be lit by the red rays of the Sun, refracted into the nighttime sky (it is the same light that gives the Moon it's reddish color during a lunar eclipse). Just below the Belt, the dark sky of the Earth's umbra (shadow) is just rising, and both aspects are nicely reflected off the water, too! Within a few minutes, the Belt had passed overhead, and the entire sky and sea took on the dark blue color of night (see the '20 minutes later' link below).

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