Weekend Stargazer: February 24 – 26

Zodiacal light
The zodiacal light is faintly seen projecting past Venus and Mars in the western sky.

If you have access to a sky free of light pollution, this weekend is a good one for sighting the elusive zodiacal light at nightfall.

The pale glow of the zodiacal light arises from sunlight scattered by dust particles residing within the inner solar system. Look for an amorphous, cone-shaped luminance in the west as soon as twilight has ended. Usually, the zodiacal light is only about as bright as the winter Milky Way, which is why you’ll need a dark, clear sky to detect it.

You might find the zodiacal light easier to capture with a camera than your eyes. To try your hand at photographing the phenomenon, use a wide-angle lens (the widest you have), aim towards the west, and experiment until you find a combination of aperture, ISO, and exposure time that yields the best results. For the most natural colours, set your camera’s white-balance to “daylight.”

To read about more events, check out my regular This Week’s Sky column at SkyNews.ca.