I happen to think there’s always a good reason to look up at the night sky, whether it’s to look for the man in the moon, check out Venus, or get lost in the Milky Way. Right now, there’s something a little less common up there.
Barry Burgess is a regular contributor and a master at photographing the mysteries of the night sky. He snapped the photo you see here last weekend. It’s a stunning picture of what some refer to as a “false dawn,” but it’s actually called the zodiacal light.
In the northern hemisphere, this large and faint wedge of light becomes visible in the east, just before sunrise around the time of the fall equinox. The eerie glow is caused by the sun’s light reflected off dust particles left over from the birth of our solar system, also known as cosmic dust.
The zodiacal light looks like a tilted cone of light; it’s roughly triangular and has a whitish glow which appears to extend up from the vicinity of the sun. Not many people spot this false dawn. Bright lights and air pollution are the biggest enemies of zodiacal lights watchers. Because these lights are very faint, any light, even from the moon, can hide them. The best time to observe these lights is two weeks after a full moon… or about now!
So what do you need to check this out? Not a thing. Because of its large size and low surface brightness, the zodiacal light can only be seen with the naked eye, and not through any optical instruments like binoculars or telescopes.
This little known and very mysterious glowing light is definitely worth a look!