Venus and Zodiacal Light

July 11, 2013

Zodiaclightl-16 11 2012 (2)

Photographer: Rudi Dobesberger
Summary Authors: Rudi Dobesberger; Jim Foster

The image above features brilliant Venus and the zodiacal light as viewed from the Kalkalpen National Park near Reichraming, Austria. On this cold and very clear autumn morning, nearby city lights are concealed under a layer of fog (lower center). As a result, the sky was almost as dark as would be expected in remote Namibia. This area of Austria is one of the last locales in central Europe with relatively little light pollution.

Zodiacal light is now thought to be caused by dust particles scattering sunlight in the orbits of comets. In both hemispheres it's best observed in late winter/early spring after sunset and late summer/early fall before sunrise. However, it can be detected before astronomical twilight (morning) or after astronomical twilight (evening) at other times of the year as well, providing that the sky is quite dark.

Note that the yellow, light dome at left is from Vienna, nearly 95 mi (150 km) away, and the smaller yellow glare at right is from the city of Graz, a distance of 63 mi (101 km). Photo taken on November 16, 2012.
Photo Details: Canon 5 D Mark II camera; 14mm Walimex lens; f/4.0; 2 x 240 second exposure; 400 ASA.