Time lapse: Crater Lake

By Phil Plait | October 30, 2011 7:30 am

Crater Lake, Oregon, is an ancient volcano caldera that is filled with water. If you’ve never been there, words really cannot convey the magnificence of the view. I was there in 2006, and was so struck by the awesome beauty of the place that I did what I could to relay how I felt at the time.

So I was thrilled when I found out that photographer Ben Canales had also visited Crater Lake, and made this lovely (and far too short!) time lapse video of it:

See what I mean? I want more! But did you see, in the first few seconds of the video, the dark band across the horizon? That’s called the Belt of Venus, and is actually the shadow of the Earth on the sky! I see it all the time, and it’s easy to get good pictures of it, too!

My only regret about visiting Crater Lake was not being able to see the stars that night, but it looks like Ben made the most of his experience there. Sometime, I’ll have to go back, and spend the night. It looks cold, but wonderful.

Credit: Ben Canales on Google+.

Related posts:

Time lapse: IRIDIUM
Well, at least light pollution makes for a pretty time lapse
The stars above, the luminescence below
The lines in the sky are stars
Trailing the sky

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (22)

  1. M

    I grew up in Oregon and spent some summers at Crater Lake. One of the things I remember is that this is one of the few places where the night skies are as dark as dark can be. One summer we went to one of John Dobson’s rare star parties. I became a science educations major and teach astronomy and physics because of times like those. I wish I was still nearby. You could read by the glow of the Milky Way after your eyes adjusted.
    Thanks for the great post.

  2. just me

    too bad that dude pitched his tent right in front of the camera and kept light on all the time.

  3. SkyGazer

    That shadow of ours.
    I presume you can see it when facing east when the sun sets?

  4. Pluto Animus

    You forgot to mention that Crater Lake is an astounding 2,000 feet deep.

  5. Funny name: “Belt of Venus” for the shadow of the earth. I was made aware of its appearance (but not this name) when I visited the top of Haleakala volcano (Maui, Hawaii). There you can see the shape of the earth (with the mountain) rising into the sky just after sunset. A very distinctive and unique view. I did take a picture of it in 1997: http://bit.ly/mtshadow . Funny enough all the other tourists went away 30 seconds after sunset when frost set in, which gave me the occasion to spend 45 minutes alone on top of the mountain under a pitch dark moonless night, watching the stars appear. A special occasion which I will never forget.

  6. Bigfoot

    Phil, this is a good opportunity to point out that Ben has an excellent basic tutorial for shutterbugs wishing to take their first basic star shots (not star tracks or timelapses) on vimeo:


    Also, glad to see another rare reference to the PNW make it to the BA blog. We are somewhat lonely up here in the upper left part of the 48.

  7. I live in Portland, and we made the drive down this summer. The Milky Way above our cabin was so bright that at first, I thought it was a band of high clouds cutting across the sky.

    Crater Lake itself has to be explored to be believed. I recommend getting a morning boat tour ticket. Then, disembark and hike to the top of Wizard Island. There was snow in the crater, and my son and I had great fun sliding on our backsides in it all the way to the bottom.


  8. Len Bonacci

    Hang on, how did he get the Earth to spin backwards from 40 – 50s?!

    I always thought the Belt of Venus was the pink glow you saw in the East as the Sun was setting.

  9. Pete Jackson

    So if you were in a balloon high in the atmosphere of Venus, watching the shadow of Venus rise in the sky after sunset (you can watch this leisurely since a solar day on Venus lasts 118 times longer than a solar day on Earth), would it be called the “Belt of Mercury”?

  10. Wade

    Ancient? It only formed ~7200 years ago. That’s a newborn caldera!

  11. drbubbles

    If the Belt of Venus is the dark band above the horizon in the first few seconds, what is it doing there later in the video, in the middle of the night?

  12. MadScientist

    I would say it just looks cold; I’ll stick to viewing the postcards.

  13. Blizno

    I’ve tried to describe winter camping in Minnesota but have never succeed.
    This too-short video captures some of the feeling.

    Drive deep into the wilderness (The BWCA is my wilderness of choice). No trace of electric light can be seen anywhere. Motor vehicles (snowmobiles, ATVs, etc.) are forbidden inside the park.
    Snowshoe in for hours. Set up your tent with sleeping pad(s), sleeping bag(s) and lay out your layers of insulation to put on as the night gets colder and colder.
    If you have the right equipment and clothing, you can be comfortable no matter how cold and windy it gets.

    There are no signs of humans, not even the scent of distant camp fires. The bears are hibernating so you don’t have to hang your food from a tall branch.

    The best reward comes during the wee hours when the sky is clearer than it can be almost anywhere else because there are no lights for many miles and there’s very little water vapor in the bitterly cold air.
    The Milky Way looks like Odin had flung a river of milk from Audhumla across the entire sky. The stars are so sharp that they hurt. The dimmest of satellites leap out from the other specks of light because they’re moving.

    I have been gifted with northern lights only a few times and they were weak each time. However, I have been serenaded to sleep more than once by the eerie and beautiful singing of distant packs of wolves.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Blizno : “I’ve tried to describe winter camping in Minnesota but have never succeed.”

    Never having been to Minnesota Ican’t say whether you’ve suceeded in capturing the essence of it or not but that description above sounded pretty awesome to me. A very good descriptive attempt at least. :-)

    So mellow. Beautiful. :-)

    Superluminous (beyond merely brilliant) view of the stars reflected in the Crater lake waters. Love this. Thanks. :-)

  15. 10. Wade Says: “Ancient? It only formed ~7200 years ago. That’s a newborn caldera!”

    Thank you, Wade. Methinks our host has slipped a bit.

    Also, in addition to being the deepest lake in the US, it is also the clearest. The black-and-white circular target that they use to measure turbidity (particles in the water) had to be made over 2X larger in diameter because the normal one (~10″ in diameter) would drop below the level of visual acuity before disappearing!

    Finally, there’s a huge mystery as to where the water in the lake goes. It’s fed completely by precipitation (it’s the highest peak in the area so there’s nothing higher to flow down from). Some of it’s direct and some is later snow melt from the walls, but no matter what time of year, the water level never varies more than a foot or so. They know that there’s a “drain” at the eastern end of the lake, but no one has been able to definitively explain where it goes. The water is tagged with tritium coming from the volcanic gasses leaching up from the vent at the bottom, so it would be easy to identify. They’ve sunk wells all around the base of the mountain and none of the lake water shows up. A great mystery!

    – Jack

  16. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Jack Hagerty : Evapouration closely matching precipitation a possible partial answer?

    BTW. Am I the only one to think the music here has a very Simon & Garfunkel vibe to it?

  17. JB of Brisbane

    On clear evenings just after sunset, my mother used to say, “Pink and blue in the east, means it’s going to be cold tomorrow”. She was usually right, but being able to see the Belt of Venus meant a clear sky, hence nothing to hold the previous day’s heat in during the night. I worked out for myself that I was seeing the earth’s shadow on the atmosphere, but I didn’t know it had a name until now. Thanks, Phil.

  18. Monkey

    @justme – Re tent.

    I think the tent and the movement made the video as powerful as it was. It gives the viewer the experience rather than just the view. I prefer this to many of the other time lapse videos.

    @Messier Tid Upper – until I read your comment I just assumed that it was. oops!

  19. Carey

    @MTU #16: I recognized Josh Radin right away :) I discovered him through a Pandora station I seeded with, naturally, Simon and Garfunkel.

  20. 16. Messier Tidy Upper Says: “@ ^ Jack Hagerty : Evapouration closely matching precipitation a possible partial answer?”

    Evapouration only if it’s in Imperial Gallons :-)

    The precipitation is almost all from mid autumn to mid spring yet the lake stays constant year ’round. They’ve modeled the input and output of every known source/sink of water and come up really short of what must be leaving the lake. I peppered the ranger who was leading our group with the same questions (which is how I learned about the tritium). It obviously has to be going into an aquifer, but no one can find it yet.

    It could be leaving through very deep fissures that are part of the old vent directly under the lake, and not showing up in the general water supply until it was far enough away to be diluted past the detection level for the tritium (that’s my first guess, homeopathic lake water!). My second guess is that it’s still down there and is filling in all the cracks in the crust. It sometimes takes a really long time for water to re-emerge. The “weeping rocks” in Zion Natl. Park have a “residence time” of three to four thousand years, and that’s just coming through a couple hundred feet of sandstone.

    – Jack

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Jack Hagerty : Thanks for that interesting reply there. :-)

    In retrospect, it was probably not the brightest suggestion I’ve ever made and something I’d expect the scientists involved to have studied already. Hmm … maybe I can blame that on drinking too many gallons of something myself! 😉


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