Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Shadow of the Earth, and Venus in the Girders

Last Sunday, October 20, I made plans to go out to the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge and get pictures of the sunset. Something came up and I missed the sunset itself, but I was there in time for the afterparty: the shadow of the Earth rising in the east.

The shadow of the Earth is not a rare thing to see. On most clear or partly cloudy days it's visible twice, setting in the west at sunrise in the and rising in the east at sunset. But most people barely take notice of sunrises or sunsets, let alone things happening on the other side of the sky. And for those who do notice it, many may write it off as a particularly dark cloud on the horizon.

The shadow of the Earth underlines another beautiful phenomenon, the pinkish-purple glow known as the Belt of Venus. This is actually the reflected glow of all of the sunsets (or sunrises) taking place beyond the horizon. It is hard to believe that people routinely miss both of these things, but it's true!

This bridge presents a uniquely beautiful perspective for watching sunrises and sunsets. The Susquehanna flows from east to west from West Pittston to Shickshinny, so from Nanticoke we can see the sun rise or set over the river. The Susquehanna, which is famously muddy and shallow, presents an almost perfect mirror surface in these photos.

After I got as many nearly-identical photos of the phenomenon as I needed to ensure a few decent ones, I turned my attention to the bridge itself.  Last overhauled in 1987, the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge appears to be in pretty good shape, though rust and dirt and graffiti coat some of the white-painted girders and struts.  And while these pictures present a serene view, keep in mind that cars were passing within two feet of me - I had to be careful not to take off somebody's mirror with an elbow.

After a while I remembered that there was something else visible here: Venus! I realized I had an opportunity for some unusual Venus images, but I would have to line them up carefully.

Venus is barely visible in this first picture. To see it, go to the fourth rivet from the bottom on the girder in front, then move to the right. It's the white dot above the cloud and below the point where a crossbeam and a strut  meet the vertical girder in the middle. (Keep in mind that these girders are white; they appear orange because of sodium vapor lights.)

Here's the same view taken in "Sports" mode - faster shutter and higher sensitivity. Venus should be much easier to spot here.This is my typical mode for night images of the Moon and indoor images where a flash would be undesirable.

And here is a close-up. I love the soft color of the girders and the twilight, and the contrasting darkness of the girder in shadow on the right.

So there you have it: the shadow of the Earth, and a special guest appearance by Venus at play amongst the girders of a bridge!

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