Mauna Kea Zodiacal Light

By: Richard Wainscoat


Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii, USA


Zodiacal Light as seen from top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The 4205m volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is recognized as one of the world's premier astronomical research sites with wide range of telescopes, including some of the largest in the world. Zodiacal Light is an unusual triangle of light visible along the ecliptic before dawn and after dusk under dark skies, specially in pre-dawn sky of late Summer and early Autumn and just after dusk in late winter and early spring (considered for northern hemisphere and the opposite for southern viewers). Once considered a false dawn, it is actually the light reflected from interplanetary dust particles which orbit the Sun predominantly in the same plane as the planets: the ecliptic. Zodiacal light is so bright at those mentioned time of year because the dust band is oriented nearly vertical at sunrise or sunset, so that the thick air near the horizon does not block out relatively bright reflecting dust. Richard Wainscoat

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