See the Light

light
Zodiacal light shining behind the Faulkes Telescope North on Maui – Rob Ratkowksi, University of Hawaii High Altitude Observatory

Early evening. A pyramid-shaped light in the west as darkness falls. What is it?

This is the zodiacal light.

The September equinox came on September 23, 2019, and the moon is new on October 28. That combination makes these next few weeks ideal for seeing the zodiacal light, also known as the false dawn.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, look east, about an hour before the light of true dawn.  A dark sky away from city lights, one or two hours after sunset and being further south in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate zone, gives you the best chance of spotting it.

I have still never seen this eerie light or the Northern Lights and both are on my list.

According to earthsky.org, this zodiacal light is caused by sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust particles that orbit the sun within the inner solar system. In the mid-northern latitudes, we might see the light because the ecliptic (the approximate plane of the solar system) is nearly perpendicular to the horizon on March/April evenings.

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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