Distant Starlight Creates a False Dawn
4. November 2014
This page isn't available in your language yet, if you'd like to provide a translation please contact us at info@unawe.org

Imagine your parent’s are driving you home from a night at your grandparents’ house. Travelling along a dark country lane you look ahead and see a hazy pyramid of light rising from the horizon. It looks like light from a nearby town, but there are no towns in that direction. It could be the Sun about to rise, but it’s only an hour since sunset. So, what is it?

This eerie glow is called ‘false dawn’ or ‘zodiacal light’. It’s caused by sunlight reflecting off dark cosmic dust in the Solar System. These rocky grains were leftover when the planets and moons formed nearly 5 billion years ago.

By combining the power of four very large telescopes into one super-telescope, astronomers have given themselves the ability to peer closely at almost 100 distant stars. And they discovered ghostly zodiacal light glowing around nine of them – exactly as we see it in our own Solar System!

The glow around these distant stars is caused by starlight bouncing off cosmic dust. This dust is made up of broken asteroids and melted comets. While this light may be a beautiful and exciting discovery, it’s not all good news.

Searching for planets around other stars is a very difficult task. These alien worlds are so far away that they appear tremendously small and dark. This makes it almost impossible to photograph them.

In fact, out of almost 2000 planets that have been discovered around distant stars, only around 20 have been photographed! The rest have been discovered using clever tricks, such as “wobble watching”.

Like bright headlights on a dark road, the glare of the false dawn light will make it even more difficult to spot any Earth-like planets that lie within a far away Solar System.

Tolle Fakten

The zodiacal light spotted around these 9 stars is 1000 times brighter than that seen in our own night skies!

This Space Scoop is based on a Press Release from ESO.
ESO
Bild
Druckerfreundliche Version
Weitere Space Scoops

Noch neugierig? Lerne mehr...

Was ist Space Scoop?

Entdecke mehr Astronomie

Wir inspirieren eine neue Generation von Entdeckern des Weltraums

Freunde von Space Scoop

Kontakt

This website was produced by funding from the European Community's Horizon 2020 Programme under grant agreement n° 638653