Zodiacal Light Mosaic from North and South Hemispheres

September 17, 2021


Photographer: Petr Horálek/ESO, Juan Carlos Casado/IAC/TWAN

Summary Author: Petr Horálek/ESO, Juan Carlos Casado/IAC/TWAN

The magnificent picture above is a stitched mosaic of photographs that capture zodiacal light in the northern and southern hemispheres. Zodiacal light is a phenomenon that occurs before dawn or after dusk in which dust particles in the inner solar system reflect sunlight towards Earth. This reflected light makes the skyline appear to softly glow under a completely dark sky when the Sun is greater than 18 degrees below the horizon. 

Long believed to be the product of dust left behind from asteroids and comets, recent studies have challenged this belief and instead suggest zodiacal light could have its origins in dust from Mars. The red planet is a very dusty world. This fact is especially true during global storms when a large amount of dust particles are released from the Martian surface in the plane of its orbit and thus in the disk of the inner part of the solar system. These dust events were recently confirmed by the Juno spacecraft traveling to Jupiter, which was bombarded with dust particles on its way during its passage around the Martian orbit. In the image above from both hemispheres (from the observatories at La Palma in the northern and ESO La Silla in the southern), zodiacal light stretches perpendicularly across the entire mosaic. The planet Mars itself is the bright orange object, at bottom center, near the middle of the Milky Way. For more info about this intriguing project and to see additional mosaics, visit Petr’s website.  Pictures taken April 2016 (Horálek), February 2020 (Casado). 

Photo Details: Modified Canon 6D cameras, 24mm lenses, f2.2, ISO 10000 and 15s exposures stitched to panorama.