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.

2012 January 16

Zodiacal Light and the False Dawn
Image Credit & Copyright: Nilesh Vayada & Ajay Talwar (TWAN)

Explanation: Is it dawn or false dawn? During certain times of the year, the horizon near the rising Sun will begin to glow unusually early. This early glow does not originate directly from the Sun, but rather from sunlight reflected by interplanetary dust. Called zodiacal light, the glowing triangle of light may be mistaken, for a while, for a sunrise, and so may be called a false dawn. Pictured above, two false dawns were recorded in time lapse movies each spanning about five hours from the perch of the highest observatory in the world: Mount Saraswati near Hanle, India. At its brightest, the rising zodiacal triangle on the left glows brighter than even the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy -- visible as the diagonal band moving left to right across the frame.

Tomorrow's picture: head witch

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