StormEffects

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

 

Zodiacal Light


 

The Zodiacal light comes from a huge number of very small dust particles which were created in part from comet debris and meteoric dust.  Although these particles are quite small, their combined surface area covers an enormous amount of space and therefore reflects a lot of sunlight.  These dust particles orbit the sun in basically the same plane as the Earth and other planets. Thusly, the Zodiacal light is easiest to see when this plane (known as the Ecliptic) is nearly perpendicular to the horizon around dusk and dawn.  In the mid-northern latitudes that happens on spring evenings and autumn mornings, and is sometimes confused with the last vestiges of sunset or a "false" dawn.  For best viewing pick a dark sky location with a level view to the horizon on a night devoid of any moonlight.  The clearer the skies the better and wait until about 90-120 minutes after sunset in the early spring or before sunrise in the fall.   The light should be visible to the naked eye but you may need to use averted (side) vision.  The light will be pyramidal in shape and arc slightly to the left during spring evenings (when looking west) following the line of the ecliptic. 

The following photographs were filmed from a remote valley in central Pennsylvania with a Bortle Light Pollution Index of about 3.  Images ranged from ISO 800-1600 with a bulb exposure from 30-75 seconds.  Most Images were captured with a 17mm wide angle lens.  The Pleiades and the downward pointing "V" of The Hyades can be seen near the upper center of each photograph.

Zodiacal Light 4-03-08

Zodiacal Light 4-03-08

 

Zodiacal Light 4-03-08

 

Zodiacal Light 4-03-08

Zodiacal Light 4-03-08

The Zodiacal Light images below were captured under much darker skies in March of 2010 from various parts of Death Valley California.  The only light pollution evident appears close to the horizon which is from the city of Los Angeles located about 175 miles to the west. 

 

Zodiacal Light - Jubilee Pass

Death Valley, CA  3-10-10

 

 

Zodiacal Light - Jubilee Pass

Death Valley, CA  3-10-10

 

 

Zodiacal Light  - Owens Lake

Keeler, CA  3-12-10

 

 

 

Zodiacal Light  - Lee Flats

Death Valley, CA 3-13-10

 

 

Zodiacal Light  - Lee Flats

Death Valley, CA 3-13-10

 

Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

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