Sometimes, if you are lucky, dawn comes before the dawn. The zodiacal light – or false dawn, as it is sometimes called – is an ethereal light extending up from the horizon, sometimes seen about an hour before sunrise or an hour after sunset. At one time, it was thought this was an atmospheric phenomenon, but it’s more cosmic than that! Zodiacal light is sunlight reflecting off dust grains in space. These dust grains are likely left over from the same process that created Earth and the other planets of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
The morning zodiacal as seen from near Rodeo, New Mexico, looking east at 5:00 am December 6, 2013. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer/Amazing Sky Photography.
Alan Dyer captured this beautiful view of the zodiacal light on a recent trip to New Mexico. If you look closely you can see some other cosmic phenomena as well: “Mars is above centre and Saturn is just rising over the mountain ridge,” Alan wrote on Flickr. “Comet Lovejoy C/2013 R1 is at far left. The image includes the position (left of centre, above the mountains left of the Zodiacal Light) where Comet ISON (C/2012 S2) would have been had it survived passage around the Sun.”
Source: Universe Today, story by Nancy Atkinson