Zodiacal Light after Sunset, California

Zodiacal Light after Sunset
Darwin Plateau, California   –   April 10, 2021
— Ralph Paonessa
Canon EOS 6D   *   14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art 017   *   ISO 5000   *   30 sec @ f/2.5

The Zodiacal Light and Milky Way appear in the western sky two hours after sunset, looking over the Sierra Nevada mountains from the Darwin Plateau.

The Pleiades star cluster can be seen in the center of the light column, while the constellation Orion is to the left.

Dust particles orbit the sun in the plane of the solar system that contains the Earth's orbit. This plane traces out the path of the Ecliptic, an imaginary line on the sky. This is also the path that the Sun follows through the constellations, thus it corresponds to the ancient Zodiac.

The Zodiacal Light comes from sunlight illuminating these dust particles, and is best seen from a dark location. It is easiest to see around the equinoxes in Spring (sunset) and Fall (sunrise) because that is when the ecliptic is almost perpendicular to the horizon and the light climbs highest in the sky.

While is has long been thought that this dust is left over from the formation of the Solar System, recent results from the Juno spacecraft suggests it may also come from dust storms on Mars!

Merged mosaic of 2x9 frames. EOS 6D modified for H-alpha. Sky and foreground processed separately in Lightroom and reassembled in Photoshop.

Photo ID: 20210410-2-Pano-Edit