November 20, 2019

Astro-Event of the Week: October 13th-19th 2008. Spot the Zodiacal Light!

   This week’s challenge is an elusive one. With the ecliptic at a high morning angle and the autumnal equinox behind us, now is a good time to attempt to spot the zodiacal light . Look to the east, about an hour or so before local sunrise. The zodiacal light should show up as a diffuse, pyramid shaped glow. Be sure to get as far from city lights as possible under absolutely dark skies to see this ethereal phenomenon. Many a seasoned suburban astronomer will profess to have never seen it! The waning moon will start to interfere towards the end of the week, so don’t delay! The effect is also visible at sunset, although better observed after dusk in the spring from the northern hemisphere. Down under, the reverse is true!

What causes the zodiacal light? That’s’ our astro-term of the week. The plane of the solar system is littered with microscopic dust, no doubt remnants of the proto-solar nebula. We see it backlit by the Sun, shortly after sunset or before sunrise. It also loosely follows the ecliptic and the constellations of the zodiac, thus the name. Happy hunting!

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  1. [...] 22nd: As spring nears in the northern hemisphere, the zodiacal light begins to become easily visible for the next few weeks after this [...]

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