|Spring Zodiacal Light
Jesper Grønne (Art of Nature) took this April 2nd from the west coast of Jutland, Denmark. ©Jesper Grønne, shown with permission.
|The Zodiacal Light is sunlight scattered from a vast disk of interplanetary dust stretching out to the orbit of Jupiter. The dust particles are only 0.001 - 0.3 mm across and on average each is separated by miles from its neighbours. The dust disk lies in the plane of the Solar System and so appears along the path of the sun against the stars - the ecliptic.
It is visible as a cone of pearly light stretching upwards from the horizon after sunset and before dawn. The sky must be properly dark with no moon to interfere. There should also be minimal pollution from artificial lights. If it is not apparent after being in the dark for 15 minutes or so, move your head and eyes to catch it first in your more sensitive peripheral vision.
The best time to see it in the evening in the northern hemisphere is February to early March. The ecliptic is then strongly tilted upwards.
Jesper has captured it with the sun 19° below the horizon and in perhaps the last Spring opportunity. Soon the Zodiacal Light will overlap the Milky Way star clouds of Taurus and Gemini and be lost against their light.
September onwards will be the next good opportunity - in pre-dawn skies - for those of us in the north.
More observing tips here.