STARGAZERS should look out for a bizarre light phenomenon this week known as the ‘zodiacal light’.
It’s the best time of year to spot the second sunset-like glow in the evening sky if you live in the northern hemisphere.
Zodiacal light leaves a triangular glow in the skyCredit: ESO
Zodiacal light is subtle so the best chance of seeing it is from a dark location well away from light pollution.
Sometime’s referred to as a ‘pyramid of light’, the glow will shine from the western horizon about an hour after sunset.
Try looking for the Taurus constellation and you should spot a light glowing shape.
The phenomenon only appears if the conditions are right.
That means clear skies above an area with little light pollution.
Scientists think zodiacal light is caused by sunlight bouncing off dust particles in space called the zodiacal dust streams.
Nasa thinks the dust streams could come from Mars or its moons.
Observers in the northern hemisphere – meaning Britain, the US and northern Europe – can look west-southwest for the broad wedge of light.
Stargazers in these countries can typically only see zodiacal light at two times of year.
The light show only appears when conditions are just rightCredit: Getty – Contributor
Those are late February or March, when it appears in the evening, and in late September, when it pops up before sunrise.
During the Autumn show, the phenomenon is known as a “false dawn”, as it appears before sunrise.
You may well have spotted zodiacal light before – you’ve just not realised it.
“Suppose you’re driving toward the west in springtime the hour after dusk,” says astronomy site EarthSky.
“You catch sight of what you think is the lingering evening twilight, or the light of a nearby town, just over the horizon. Instead, you may be seeing the zodiacal light.”
The Sun’s top tips for amateur stargazers
Here’s an easy guide to get you started…
- Head up somewhere high
- Avoid light pollution
- Bring binoculars
- Wrap up warm and bring a snack
- Sit out in the dark for at least half an hour to let your eyes adjust
- A star spotter guide and a compass can help you find a particular constellation or star
In other space news, a new image of a black hole has been unveiled, revealing the vortex of magnetic chaos surrounding it.
Huge fragments of an alien world may be buried deep beneath the surface of our planet.
And, the DNA of 6.7 million species could be stored inside the Moon in case there’s a disaster that destroys life on Earth.
Will you be stargazing this week? Let us know in the comments…
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