Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Zodiacal Light and the False Dawn

This is really cool:
click on image to enlarge Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (ESO )

Explanation: An unusual triangle of light will be particularly bright near the eastern horizon before sunrise during the next two months for observers in Earth's northern hemisphere. Once considered a false dawn, this triangle of light is actually Zodiacal Light, light reflected from interplanetary dust particles. The triangle is clearly visible toward the left of the frame taken from the Paranal Observatory in Chile in July. Zodiacal dust orbits the Sun predominantly in the same plane as the planets: the ecliptic. Zodiacal light is so bright this time of year because the dust band is oriented nearly vertical at sunrise, so that the thick air near the horizon does not block out relatively bright reflecting dust. Zodiacal light is also bright for people in Earth's northern hemisphere in March and April just after sunset.

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