OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A strange celestial phenomenon is lighting up the western horizon after sunset during the next couple of weeks.
Known as zodiacal light, the seasonal event is caused by dust particles that orbit the sun in roughly the same plane as the Earth.
During March and early April, the ecliptic plane is nearly perpendicular to the horizon at sunset, so it’s easier to see the dust particles in space because they are lit by the sun. This forms a faint, pyramid shaped glow in the sky just above the western horizon.
Those dust particles are left over from the process that created Earth and other planets in our solar system over 4.5 billions years ago.
“[It’s] nature’s way of reminding us that, even though we think of space as just a vacuum, there is actually a lot of stuff floating around out there,” said Chabot Space and Science Center Astronomer Gerald McKeegan.
You can find the zodiacal light by looking in between the bright planet Venus and the point on the horizon for up to an hour after the sun sets. You’ll need a dark sky away from the city to see the light, which is even milkier in appearance than the summer Milky Way.