Zodiacal Light 2020

In 2020, the best dates and times for observing the zodiacal light are listed in the calendar below. The sky must be very clear with little or no light pollution. The specific times listed are for Dodgeville, Wisconsin (42° 58′ N, 90° 08′ W).

Here’s a nicely-formatted printable PDF file of the zodiacal light calendar:

January 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12
Zodiacal Light 6:28 – 7:07 p.m. West
13
Zodiacal Light 6:29 – 7:29 p.m. West
14
Zodiacal Light 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. West
15
Zodiacal Light 6:31 – 7:31 p.m. West
16
Zodiacal Light 6:32 – 7:32 p.m. West
17
Zodiacal Light 6:33 – 7:33 p.m. West
18
Zodiacal Light 6:34 – 7:34 p.m. West
19
Zodiacal Light 6:35 – 7:35 p.m. West
20
Zodiacal Light 6:36 – 7:36 p.m. West
21
Zodiacal Light 6:37 – 7:37 p.m. West
22
Zodiacal Light 6:38 – 7:38 p.m. West
23
Zodiacal Light 6:39 – 7:39 p.m. West
24
Zodiacal Light 6:41 – 7:41 p.m. West
25
Zodiacal Light 6:42 – 7:42 p.m. West
26 27 28 29 30 31  
February 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10
Zodiacal Light 7:00 – 7:17 p.m. West
11
Zodiacal Light 7:01 – 8:01 p.m. West
12
Zodiacal Light 7:03 – 8:03 p.m. West
13
Zodiacal Light 7:04 – 8:04 p.m. West
14
Zodiacal Light 7:05 – 8:05 p.m. West
15
Zodiacal Light 7:06 – 8:06 p.m. West
16
Zodiacal Light 7:07 – 8:07 p.m. West
17
Zodiacal Light 7:09 – 8:09 p.m. West
18
Zodiacal Light 7:10 – 8:10 p.m. West
19
Zodiacal Light 7:11 – 8:11 p.m. West
20
Zodiacal Light 7:12 – 8:12 p.m. West
21
Zodiacal Light 7:13 – 8:13 p.m. West
22
Zodiacal Light 7:15 – 8:15 p.m. West
23
Zodiacal Light 7:16 – 8:16 p.m. West
24
Zodiacal Light 7:17 – 8:17 p.m. West
25 26 27 28 29

March 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11
Zodiacal Light 8:37 – 9:37 p.m. West
12
Zodiacal Light 8:38 – 9:38 p.m. West
13
Zodiacal Light 8:39 – 9:39 p.m. West
14
Zodiacal Light 8:41 – 9:41 p.m. West
15
Zodiacal Light 8:42 – 9:42 p.m. West
16
Zodiacal Light 8:43 – 9:43 p.m. West
17
Zodiacal Light 8:45 – 9:45 p.m. West
18
Zodiacal Light 8:46 – 9:46 p.m. West
19
Zodiacal Light 8:47 – 9:47 p.m. West
20
Zodiacal Light 8:49 – 9:49 p.m. West
21
Zodiacal Light 8:50 – 9:50 p.m. West
22
Zodiacal Light 8:51 – 9:51 p.m. West
23
Zodiacal Light 8:53 – 9:53 p.m. West
24
Zodiacal Light 8:54 – 9:54 p.m. West
25
Zodiacal Light 8:55 – 9:55 p.m. West
26 27 28
29 30 31        

April 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9
Zodiacal Light 9:17 – 9:51 p.m. West
10
Zodiacal Light 9:19 – 10:19 p.m. West
11
Zodiacal Light 9:20 – 10:20 p.m. West
12
Zodiacal Light 9:22 – 10:22 p.m. West
13
Zodiacal Light 9:23 – 10:23 p.m. West
14
Zodiacal Light 9:25 – 10:25 p.m. West
15
Zodiacal Light 9:27 – 10:27 p.m. West
16
Zodiacal Light 9:28 – 10:28 p.m. West
17
Zodiacal Light 9:30 – 10:30 p.m. West
18
Zodiacal Light 9:31 – 10:31 p.m. West
19
Zodiacal Light 9:33 – 10:33 p.m. West
20
Zodiacal Light 9:35 – 10:35 p.m. West
21
Zodiacal Light 9:36 – 10:36 p.m. West
22
Zodiacal Light 9:38 – 10:38 p.m. West
23
Zodiacal Light 9:40 – 10:40 p.m. West
24
Zodiacal Light 9:41 – 10:41 p.m. West
25
26 27 28 29 30    
September 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16
Zodiacal Light 4:05 – 5:05 a.m. East
17
Zodiacal Light 4:06 – 5:06 a.m. East
18
Zodiacal Light 4:07 – 5:07 a.m. East
19
Zodiacal Light 4:09 – 5:09 a.m. East
20
Zodiacal Light 4:10 – 5:10 a.m. East
21
Zodiacal Light 4:11 – 5:11 a.m. East
22
Zodiacal Light 4:13 – 5:13 a.m. East
23
Zodiacal Light 4:14 – 5:14 a.m. East
24
Zodiacal Light 4:15 – 5:15 a.m. East
25
Zodiacal Light 4:16 – 5:16 a.m. East
26
Zodiacal Light 4:17 – 5:17 a.m. East
27
Zodiacal Light 4:19 – 5:19 a.m. East
28
Zodiacal Light 4:20 – 5:20 a.m. East
29
Zodiacal Light 4:27 – 5:21 a.m. East
30      

October 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16
Zodiacal Light 4:41 – 5:41 a.m. East
17
Zodiacal Light 4:42 – 5:42 a.m. East
18
Zodiacal Light 4:43 – 5:43 a.m. East
19
Zodiacal Light 4:44 – 5:44 a.m. East
20
Zodiacal Light 4:46 – 5:46 a.m. East
21
Zodiacal Light 4:47 – 5:47 a.m. East
22
Zodiacal Light 4:48 – 5:48 a.m. East
23
Zodiacal Light 4:49 – 5:49 a.m. East
24
Zodiacal Light 4:50 – 5:50 a.m. East
25
Zodiacal Light 4:51 – 5:51 a.m. East
26
Zodiacal Light 4:52 – 5:52 a.m. East
27
Zodiacal Light 4:53 – 5:53 a.m. East
28
Zodiacal Light 4:55 – 5:55 a.m. East
29
Zodiacal Light 5:24 – 5:56 a.m. East
30 31

November 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Zodiacal Light 4:13 – 5:13 a.m. East
15
Zodiacal Light 4:15 – 5:15 a.m. East
16
Zodiacal Light 4:16 – 5:16 a.m. East
17
Zodiacal Light 4:17 – 5:17 a.m. East
18
Zodiacal Light 4:18 – 5:18 a.m. East
19
Zodiacal Light 4:19 – 5:19 a.m. East
20
Zodiacal Light 4:20 – 5:20 a.m. East
21
Zodiacal Light 4:21 – 5:21 a.m. East
22
Zodiacal Light 4:22 – 5:22 a.m. East
23
Zodiacal Light 4:23 – 5:23 a.m. East
24
Zodiacal Light 4:24 – 5:24 a.m. East
25
Zodiacal Light 4:25 – 5:25 a.m. East
26
Zodiacal Light 4:26 – 5:26 a.m. East
27
Zodiacal Light 4:27 – 5:27 a.m. East
28
Zodiacal Light 5:17 – 5:28 a.m. East
29 30          

The best nights to observe the zodiacal light at mid-northern latitudes occur when the ecliptic plane intersects the horizon at an angle of 60° or steeper. The dates above were chosen on that basis, with the Sun at least 18° below the horizon and the Moon below the horizon being used to calculate the times. An interval of time of one hour either before morning twilight or after evening twilight was chosen arbitrarily because it is the “best one hour” for observing the zodiacal light. The zodiacal light cone will be brightest and will reach highest above the horizon when the Sun is 18° below the horizon (astronomical twilight), but no less.

If you are interested in calculating the angle the ecliptic makes with your horizon for any date and time, you can use the following formula:

\cos I = \cos \varepsilon \sin \phi-\sin \varepsilon \cos \phi \sin \theta

where I is the angle between the ecliptic and the horizon, ε is  the obliquity of the ecliptic, φ is the latitude of the observer, and θ is the local sidereal time (the right ascension of objects on the observer's meridian at the time of observation).

Here’s a SAS program I wrote to do these calculations:

References
Meeus, J. Astronomical Algorithms. 2nd ed., Willmann-Bell, 1998, p. 99.

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