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March Sky Highlights Include Mysterious Zodiacal Light / False Dusk on Washington / Oregon Coast

Published 03/11/21 at 5:50 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

March Sky Highlights Include Mysterious Zodiacal Light / False Dusk on Washington / Oregon Coast

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – The skies above Oregon and Washington will see a few interesting sights through the remainder of March, including the coastlines of both states. One, however, one may take the astronomical cake, if you can spot it. (Above: the Zodiacal Light in the eastern U.S., courtesy Stephen Rahn / Flickr)

Mars will be in the mix this month as well as the spring equinox, and a full moon with some wacky names.

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The Oregon and Washington coast may not be a bad spot to see what is known as the Zodiacal Light – or False Dusk (often referred to as the False Dawn). It takes finding a place with no light pollution, but the coastal mists of Oregon and Washington may play a part as well.

The Zodiacal Light is a weird, cone shape or wedge of light that sticks upward just after dusk (or sometimes just before dawn). According to NASA and astronomy publications like EarthSky.org, right about now is when you might be able to see it just after sunset. It is definitely not a guarantee, however.

If it shows up, it’ll be about a half hour after sunset, and then it may get easily confused with blue hour – the period of colorful, post-sunset display that is really quite intense if you photograph it with the right equipment.

Scientists say in the northern hemisphere it could be visible until March 13 – which leaves just another couple of days for those wandering the Pacific Northwest or the Oregon / Washington coast. However, starting March 30 the possibility comes again for the Zodiacal Light / False Dusk, lasting until April 11.

What is the Zodiacal Light? That’s a shifting story right now.


Above: Zodiacal Light at Bend, courtesy David Lane

So far, it’s been believed it comes from countless particles that occupy the plane of our solar system.

However, just in recent months the NASA spacecraft Juno made it to Jupiter and along the way the sensitive instruments designed by Danish scientist Leif Jorgensen started sending back unusual data of a barrage of dust hitting them. Descriptions of the discovery are rather dramatic and long, but the short story is NASA teams began noticing the dust appeared to be coming from Mars. The red planet was kicking up cosmic dust, and it aligned with where scientists extrapolated the False Dawn / Dusk debris to be coming from.

Places to check out will be remote parts of the Long Beach Penninsula, Grayland Beach, Manzanita's Neahkahnie Overlooks, southern Pacific City, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, the National Dunes Recreation Area between Florence and Reedsport, Cape Sebastian area, and the Samuel H. Boardman Corridor.

Other highlights to look for from Oregon / Washington coast beaches:

Mars will be in the southwestern sky after March 19, glowing brighter for awhile. NASA says it will set after 1 a.m., however.

On March 20, the sun crosses the celestial equator, marking the vernal equinox in our hemisphere and the official beginning of spring. On that day, the length of the daytime and the nighttime hours will be the same, and the sun will rise due east and set exactly due west.

This month’s full moon is called the Worm Moon (mmmm yummy). It’s also known as the Crow Moon (hello comic book fans), the Sap Moon (sounds like a slam) and the Lenton Moon (yes, we ran out of jokes here).

It happens on March 28 – and it is also the first supermoon of 2021. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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