Zodiacal Light at La Silla

Imaged by Yuri Beletsky from ESO La Silla observatory September 17, '09.

The sun had set 80 minutes previously and was already 18° below the horizon. The red star at low right is Arcturus, the stars of Centaurus are at left.

The ecliptic and the soft cone of the Zodiacal light are nearly vertical. The light extends upwards 40° beyond the edge of the camera field.

The Zodiacal light can be seen in light polluted European (1,2,3) and North American skies but here in the clear skies of the Chilean Atacama Desert it is visible at its full brilliance.

A disk of dust out to the orbit of Jupiter and perhaps beyond produces it. The dust grains are 0.001 to 0.3 mm across and likely originate from comets.  

Compared to the wavelength of visible light the dust is large and consequently it scatters sunlight strongly forwards. the glow is therefore brightest near to the sun. A fainter Zodiacal Band extends around the sky to the gegenschein or counterglow directly opposite the sun.

Yuri's Paranal image.


Top image İYuri Beletsky, shown with permission

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