The Zodiacal Light and Sun Pillars


THE appearance on clear evenings of the zodiacal light after sunset at this season of the year in this latitude is usual, and it has been frequent and beautiful to observe in this district for many nights. It would be interesting if the readers of NATURE could detect any definite movement of the arm of light, for much yet remains to be discovered about this phenomenon, and any observer can make this point a study. From a short half-hour after sunset to from 8 to 9 p.m., a straight line drawn from the sun's position at sunset to the Pleiades will not remain the centre line of the zodiacal light. It appears to emanate from the sun and move as the luminous spoke of a wheel which has the sun for centre frequently, but not invariably. What makes the light apparently fade away? Is it that the motion of the earth has drawn with it the arc of volcanic or meteoric particles, which may be the medium of the light, away from the sun? or is it not possible that such a band of dust is lit with a degree of earthshine? If so, may not this account for that other phenomenon of the Gergershein, which is usually brilliant in proportion to the brilliancy of the zodiacal light? Doubtless these phenomena are always present, but their visibility depends on the magnetic or electric condition of our atmosphere. Irritated by either of these conditions, the belts of dust would alter positions of all the bodies forming them, and so lie at a different angle and be clearer or dimmer accordingly.

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BRIDGES, G. The Zodiacal Light and Sun Pillars. Nature 65, 439 (1902).

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