#BAFact: Face east just after sunset. That dark band across the horizon? The Earth's shadow on the sky.

The Earth's air isn't perfectly transparent. There's haze, aerosols, and just junk floating in it. When the Sun is up, it's lit up like everything else. If an object passes between that junk and the Sun, you can see the shadow of that object cast on the floating material, just like you see the shadow of a tree cast on the ground.

At sunset, the horizon of the Earth itself can get between the Sun and that stuff, casting its shadow on the sky itself! Above that shadow line the stuff is lit by the setting Sun, but below it the Sun is blocked by the Earth. This casts a darkish band across the eastern horizon at sunset, called the Belt of Venus, and it's generally visible if you have a clear view to the east. It's easiest to see in summer, when generally speaking there's more haze in the air.

You can see it in the video below, and I have more info on the blog:  

I'll leave you with a question: why is the name for this phenomenon ironic? :)
Owen Roberts's profile photoAlan Graham's profile photoKen Brody's profile photoPhilip Plait (The Bad Astronomer)'s profile photo
So what's the terminator then? No, not referring to THAT Terminator :)
If we ever get to see the sky in England I'll be happy
10/10 cloud cover AGAIN
At first I thought the irony was due to Venus sometimes visible pre-dawn but the same phenomenon would apply then.  Then I realized that the belt is always on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun, so Venus never actually appears in the Belt of Venus.
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