Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2023 February 27
Explanation: What's causing that unusual ray of light extending from the horizon? Dust orbiting the Sun. At certain times of the year, a band of sun-reflecting dust from the inner Solar System appears prominently after sunset or before sunrise and is called zodiacal light. The dust was emitted mostly from faint Jupiter-family comets and slowly spirals into the Sun. The featured composite image, acquired in mid-February from the Sierra Nevada National Park in Spain, captures the glowing band of zodiacal light going right in front of the bright evening planets Jupiter (upper) and Venus (lower). Emitted from well behind the zodiacal light is a dark night sky that prominently includes the Pleiades star cluster. Jupiter and Venus are slowly switching places in the evening sky, and just in the next few days nearing their closest angular approach.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC,
NASA Science Activation
& Michigan Tech. U.