Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2008 December 14
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Zodiacal Light Over New Mexico
Credit & Copyright: Malcolm Park (North York Astronomical Association)

Explanation: An unusual triangle of light is visible this time of year just before dawn. Once considered a false dawn, this triangle of light is actually Zodiacal Light, light reflected from interplanetary dust particles. The triangle is clearly visible in the above image taken from New Mexico, USA, in October. A telescope truss tube assembly and observatory domes of New Mexico Skies fill the foreground of the early morning skyscape. 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.

Note: APOD Editor to Speak in New York on Jan. 2

Tomorrow's picture: reflected pillar

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.