The Zodiacal Light is a faint cone of light, sometimes seen in the west for an hour or so after dark. It can also appear in the east, about an hour before dawn. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Zodiacal Light can best be seen in the west during February and March and in the east in September and October.
This faint glow is sunlight from below the horizon reflecting off of small particles orbiting the Sun in the plane of the ecliptic (the path against the stars that the Sun appears to follow as the Earth orbits it). The Zodiacal Light is visible around the time of the spring and autumnal equinoxes, when the ecliptic is at a steep angle with respect to the horizon.
Since the Zodiacal Light is quite faint, it can only be viewed on clear, dark nights. From the 285 corridor, the pre-dawn Zodiacal Light is easily visible since our eastern skies are quite dark. However, seeing the Zodiacal Light in the west after dark has become increasingly difficult in our area, primarily due to the light dome from the greater Albuquerque area and the bright lights of the prison.
While various resources indicate that the pre-dawn Zodiacal Light is visible in ‘September and October’ or ‘near the autumnal equinox,’ I’ve viewed it from my home in Eldorado as early as the latter half of June and as late as mid-January.
Currently, the Zodiacal Light is conveniently located in the western sky, just after dark. See if you can view it, despite the nearby light pollution. I saw and photographed it this week.
We need to protect our dark skies, so we can continue to see this ghostly interplanetary light.