Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. provided by NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU).
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Astronomy Picture of the Day
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© Alyn Wallace

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🌌The Aurora Tree Yes, but can your tree do this? Pictured is a visual coincidence between the dark branches of a nearby tree and bright glow of a distant aurora. The beauty of the aurora -- combined with how it seemed to mimic a tree right nearby -- mesmerized the photographer to such a degree that he momentarily forgot to take pictures. When viewed at the right angle, it seemed that this tree h ...
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🌌Perseverance Landing Site from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Seen from orbit a day after a dramatic arrival on the martian surface, the Perseverance landing site is identified in this high-resolution view from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The orbiter's camera image also reveals the location of the Mars 2020 mission descent stage, heat shield, and parachute and back shell that delivered Persev ...
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🌌Mars Perseverance Sol 3 Stitched together on planet Earth, 142 separate images make up this 360 degree panorama from the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars. The high-resolution color images were taken by the Perseverance rover's zoomable Mastcam-Z during mission sol 3, also known as February 21, 2021. In the foreground of Mastcam-Z's view is the car-sized rover's deck. Broad light-colored patches i ...
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🌌A Venus Flyby On a mission to explore the inner heliosphere and solar corona, on July 11, 2020 the Wide-field Imager on board NASA's Parker Solar Probe captured this stunning view of the nightside of Venus at distance of about 12,400 kilometers (7,693 miles). The spacecraft was making the third of seven gravity-assist flybys of the inner planet. The gravity-asssist flybys are designed to use th ...
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🌌Spiral Galaxy M66 from Hubble It’s always nice to get a new view of an old friend. This stunning Hubble Space Telescope image of nearby spiral galaxy M66 is just that. A spiral galaxy with a small central bar, M66 is a member of the Leo Galaxy Triplet, a group of three galaxies about 30 million light years from us. The Leo Triplet is a popular target for relatively small telescopes, in part bec ...
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© John Kraus

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🌌Moon Rising Between Starships What's that on either side of the Moon? Starships. Specifically, they are launch-and-return reusable rockets being developed by SpaceX to lift cargo and eventually humans from the Earth's surface into space. The two rockets pictured are SN9 (Serial Number 9) and SN10 which were captured near their Boca Chica, Texas launchpad last month posing below January's full W ...
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© Don Goldman

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🌌NGC 2244: A Star Cluster in the Rosette Nebula In the heart of the Rosette Nebula lies a bright open cluster of stars that lights up the nebula. The stars of NGC 2244 formed from the surrounding gas only a few million years ago. The featured image taken in January using multiple exposures and very specific colors of Sulfur (shaded red), Hydrogen (green), and Oxygen (blue), captures the central ...
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🌌Perseverance: How to Land on Mars Slung beneath its rocket powered descent stage Perseverance hangs only a few meters above the martian surface, captured here moments before its February 18 touchdown on the Red Planet. The breath-taking view followed an intense seven minute trip from the top of the martian atmosphere. Part of a high resolution video, the picture was taken from the descent stage ...
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🌌Mars Perseverance Sol 0 After a 203 day interplanetary voyage, and seven minutes of terror, Perseverance has landed on Mars. Confirmation of the successful landing at Jezero crater was announced from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 12:55 pm PST on February 18. The car-sized Mars rover's Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera acquired this initial low re ...
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© Jens Bydal

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🌌Swiss Alps, Martian Sky Taken on February 6, this snowy mountain and skyscape was captured near Melchsee-Frutt, central Switzerland, planet Earth. The reddish daylight and blue tinted glow around the afternoon Sun are colors of the Martian sky, though. Of course both worlds have the same Sun. From Mars, the Sun looks only about half as bright and 2/3 the size compared to its appearance from Ear ...
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© Mike Cohea

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🌌Sun Pillar with Upper Tangent Arc This was not a typical sun pillar. Just after sunrise two weeks ago in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, a photographer, looking out his window, was suddenly awestruck. The astonishment was caused by a sun pillar that fanned out at the top. Sun pillars, singular columns of light going up from the Sun, are themselves rare to see, and are known to be caused by sunli ...
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🌌Landing on Mars: Seven Minutes of Terror Starting Thursday, there may be an amazing new robotic explorer on Mars. Or there may be a new pile of junk. It all likely depends on things going correctly in the minutes after the Mars 2020 mission arrives at its new home planet and attempts to deploy the Perseverance rover. Arguably the most sophisticated landing yet attempted on the red planet, conse ...
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© Adam BlockTim Puckett

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🌌Long Stem Rosette Nebula Would the Rosette Nebula by any other name look as sweet? The bland New General Catalog designation of NGC 2237 doesn't appear to diminish the appearance of this flowery emission nebula, at the top of the image, atop a long stem of glowing hydrogen gas. Inside the nebula lies an open cluster of bright young stars designated NGC 2244. These stars formed about four millio ...
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🌌Stereo Eros Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid 433 Eros. Orbiting the Sun once every 1.8 years, the near-Earth asteroid is named for the Greek god of love. Still, its shape more closely resembles a lumpy potato than a heart. Eros is a diminutive 40 x 14 x 14 kilometer world of undulating horizons, craters, boulders and valleys. Its unsettling scale and unromantic shape are ...
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© Mike Selby

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🌌Spiral Galaxy NGC 1350 This gorgeous island universe lies about 85 million light-years distant in the southern constellation Fornax. Inhabited by young blue star clusters, the tightly wound spiral arms of NGC 1350 seem to join in a circle around the galaxy's large, bright nucleus, giving it the appearance of a cosmic eye. In fact, NGC 1350 is about 130,000 light-years across. That makes it as l ...
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© Astro Anarchy

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🌌Cygnus Mosaic 2010 - 2020 In brush strokes of interstellar dust and glowing gas, this beautiful skyscape is painted across the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy near the northern end of the Great Rift and the constellation Cygnus the Swan. Composed over a decade with 400 hours of image data, the broad mosaic spans an impressive 28x18 degrees across the sky. Alpha star of Cygnus, bright, hot, superg ...
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© Juan Carlos MuñozESO Text: Juan Carlos Muñoz

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🌌Firing Lasers to Tame the Sky Why do stars twinkle? Our atmosphere is to blame as pockets of slightly off-temperature air, in constant motion, distort the light paths from distant astronomical objects. Atmospheric turbulence is a problem for astronomers because it blurs the images of the sources they want to study. The telescope featured in this image, located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, is e ...
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🌌Flashes of the Crab Pulsar It somehow survived an explosion that would surely have destroyed our Sun. Now it is spins 30 times a second and is famous for the its rapid flashes. It is the Crab Pulsar, the rotating neutron star remnant of the supernova that created the Crab Nebula. A careful eye can spot the pulsar flashes in the featured time-lapse video, just above the image center. The video w ...
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© Ariel Cappelletti

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🌌WR32 and Interstellar Clouds in Carina Stars can be like artists. With interstellar gas as a canvas, a massive and tumultuous Wolf-Rayet star has created the picturesque ruffled half-circular filaments called WR32, on the image left. Additionally, the winds and radiation from a small cluster of stars, NGC 3324, have sculpted a 35 light year cavity on the upper right, with its right side appeari ...
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🌌Blue Straggler Stars in Globular Cluster M53 If our Sun were part of this star cluster, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. This cluster, known as M53 and cataloged as NGC 5024, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M53 are older and redder than our Sun, but some enigmatic stars appear to be bluer and younger. These young s ...
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© Lukasz Zak

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🌌A Northern Winter Night Snow blankets the ground in this serene forest and sky view. Assembled in a 360 degree panoramic projection, the mosaicked frames were captured at January's end along a quiet country road near Siemiony, northeastern Poland, planet Earth. The night was cold and between trees reaching toward the sky shine the stars and nebulae of the northern winter Milky Way. Near zenith ...
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🌌Apollo 14 Heads for Home Fifty years ago this Sunday (February 7, 1971), the crew of Apollo 14 left lunar orbit and headed for home. They watched this Earthrise from their command module Kittyhawk. With Earth's sunlit crescent just peeking over the lunar horizon, the cratered terrain in the foreground is along the lunar farside. Of course, while orbiting the Moon, the crew could watch Earth ris ...
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🌌Apollo 14: A View from Antares Fifty years ago this Friday, Apollo 14's Lunar Module Antares landed on the Moon. Toward the end of the stay astronaut Ed Mitchell snapped a series of photos of the lunar surface while looking out a window, assembled into this detailed mosaic by Apollo Lunar Surface Journal editor Eric Jones. The view looks across the Fra Mauro highlands to the northwest of the la ...
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🌌Found on the Moon: Candidate for Oldest Known Earth Rock Was the oldest known rock on Earth found on the Moon? Quite possibly. The story opens with the Apollo 14 lunar mission. Lunar sample 14321, a large rock found in Cone crater by astronaut Alan Shepard, when analyzed back on Earth, was found to have a fragment that was a much better match to Earth rocks than other Moon rocks. Even more surp ...
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© Frank Kuszaj

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🌌A Colorful Quadrantid Meteor Meteors can be colorful. While the human eye usually cannot discern many colors, cameras often can. Pictured is a Quadrantids meteor captured by camera over Missouri, USA, early this month that was not only impressively bright, but colorful. The radiant grit, likely cast off by asteroid 2003 EH1, blazed a path across Earth's atmosphere. Colors in meteors usually ori ...
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© Göran Strand

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