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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© Sameer Dhar

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🌌The Lagoon Nebula without Stars Ridges of glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds inhabit the turbulent, cosmic depths of the Lagoon Nebula. Also known as M8, the bright star forming region is about 5,000 light-years distant. But it still makes for a popular stop on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius, toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Dominated by the telltale red ...
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© Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

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🌌Meteor before Galaxy What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a small pebble from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared seve ...
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🌌Stereo Phobos Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to Phobos, grooved moon of Mars! Captured in 2004 by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, the image data was recorded at a distance of about 200 kilometers from the martian moon. This tantalizing stereo anaglyph view shows the Mars-facing side of Phobos. It highlights the asteroid-like moon's cratere ...
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© Vikas Chander

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🌌A Beautiful Trifid The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid does illustrate three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light from hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae pro ...
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© Joan Josep Isach Cogollos

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🌌M13: The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules In 1716, English astronomer Edmond Halley noted, "This is but a little Patch, but it shows itself to the naked Eye, when the Sky is serene and the Moon absent." Of course, M13 is now less modestly recognized as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, one of the brightest globular star clusters in the northern sky. Sharp telescopic views like this one ...
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© Bray Falls

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🌌Halo of the Cat's Eye What created the unusual halo around the Cat's Eye nebula? No one is sure. What is sure is that the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae on the sky. Although haunting symmetries are seen in the bright central region, this image was taken to feature its intricately structured outer halo, which spans over three light-years across. Planetary ...
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© Francisco Sojuel

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🌌A Moon Dressed Like Saturn Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn't -- what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon ...
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🌌Mountains of Dust in the Carina Nebula It's stars versus dust in the Carina Nebula and the stars are winning. More precisely, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Located in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, these pillar's appearance is dominated by the dark dust ev ...
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🌌Starburst Galaxy M94 from Hubble Why does this galaxy have a ring of bright blue stars? Beautiful island universe Messier 94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). A popular target for Earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across, with spiral arms sweeping through the outskirts of it ...
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© ALSJ

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🌌The Eagle Rises Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this stereo view from lunar orbit. The 3D anaglyph was created from two photographs (AS11-44-6633, AS11-44-6634) taken by astronaut Michael Collins during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. It features the lunar module ascent stage, dubbed The Eagle, rising to meet the command module in lunar orbit on July 21. Aboard the ascent stage are Neil ...
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© Ian Griffin

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🌌SOFIA's Southern Lights SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a large reflecting telescope into the stratosphere. The ability of the airborne facility to climb above about 99 percent of Earth's infrared-blocking atmosphere has allowed researchers to observe from almost anywhere over the planet. On a science mission flying deep ...
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© Jeff Dai

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🌌North Celestial Tree An ancient tree seems to reach out and touch Earth's North Celestial Pole in this well-planned night skyscape. Consecutive exposures for the timelapse composition were recorded with a camera fixed to a tripod in the Yiwu Desert Poplar Forests in northwest Xinjiang, China. The graceful star trail arcs reflect Earth's daily rotation around its axis. By extension, the axis of ...
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© Ruslan Merzlyakovastrorms

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🌌Crepuscular Moon Rays over Denmark This moon made quite an entrance. Typically, a moonrise is quiet and serene. Taking a few minutes to fully peek above the horizon, Earth's largest orbital companion can remain relatively obscure until it rises high in the nighttime sky. About a week ago, however, and despite being only half lit by the Sun, this rising moon put on a show -- at least from this l ...
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🌌Comet NEOWISE Rising over the Adriatic Sea This sight was worth getting out of bed early. Two years ago this month, Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) rose before dawn to the delight of northern sky enthusiasts awake that early. Up before sunrise on July 8th, the featured photographer was able to capture in dramatic fashion one of the few comets visible to the unaided eye this century, an inner-Solar Sy ...
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© Mohamad Soltanolkotabi

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🌌Find the New Moon Can you find the Moon? This usually simple task can be quite difficult. Even though the Moon is above your horizon half of the time, its phase can be anything from crescent to full. The featured image was taken in late May from Sant Martí d'Empúries, Spain, over the Mediterranean Sea in the early morning. One reason you can't find this moon is because it is very near to its ne ...
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🌌Saturn in Infrared from Cassini Many details of Saturn appear clearly in infrared light. Bands of clouds show great structure, including long stretching storms. Also quite striking in infrared is the unusual hexagonal cloud pattern surrounding Saturn's North Pole. Each side of the dark hexagon spans roughly the width of our Earth. The hexagon's existence was not predicted, and its origin and li ...
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🌌Apollo 11 Landing Panorama Have you seen a panorama from another world lately? Assembled from high-resolution scans of the original film frames, this one sweeps across the magnificent desolation of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility. The images were taken by Neil Armstrong looking out his window of the Eagle Lunar Module shortly after the July 20, 1969 landing. The fram ...
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© Robert Eder

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🌌Spiral Galaxy M74: A Sharper View Beautiful spiral galaxy Messier 74 (also known as NGC 628) lies some 32 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces. An island universe of about 100 billion stars with two prominent spiral arms, M74 has long been admired by astronomers as a perfect example of a grand-design spiral galaxy. M74's central region is brought into a stunning, sharp focus ...
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© German Penelas Perez

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🌌Messier 10 and Comet Imaged on July 15 2022, comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) had a Messier moment, sharing this wide telescopic field of view with globular star cluster Messier 10. Of course M10 was cataloged by 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier as the 10th object on his list of things that were definitely not comets. While M10 is about 14 thousand light-years distant, this comet PanSTARRS ...
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🌌Jupiter and Ring in Infrared from Webb Why does Jupiter have rings? Jupiter's main ring was discovered in 1979 by NASA's passing Voyager 1 spacecraft, but its origin was then a mystery. Data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft that orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, however, confirmed the hypothesis that this ring was created by meteoroid impacts on small nearby moons. As a small meteoroid strikes t ...
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© Dheera Venkatraman

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🌌Pleiades over Half Dome Stars come in bunches. The most famous bunch of stars on the sky is the Pleiades, a bright cluster that can be easily seen with the unaided eye. The Pleiades lies only about 450 light years away, formed about 100 million years ago, and will likely last about another 250 million years. Our Sun was likely born in a star cluster, but now, being about 4.5 billion years old, ...
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🌌Stephan's Quintet from Webb, Hubble, and Subaru OK, but why can't you combine images from Webb and Hubble? You can, and today's featured image shows one impressive result. Although the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has a larger mirror than Hubble, it specializes in infrared light and can't see blue -- only up to about orange. Conversely, the Hubble Space Telescope (Hubble) ...
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🌌Europa and Jupiter from Voyager 1 What are those spots on Jupiter? Largest and furthest, just right of center, is the Great Red Spot -- a huge storm system that has been raging on Jupiter possibly since Giovanni Cassini's likely notation of it 357 years ago. It is not yet known why this Great Spot is red. The spot toward the lower left is one of Jupiter's largest moons: Europa. Images from Voya ...
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© Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau

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🌌Tycho and Clavius at Dawn South is up in this dramatic telescopic view of the lunar terminator and the Moon's rugged southern highlands. The lunar landscape was captured on July 7 with the moon at its first quarter phase. The Sun shines at a low angle from the right as dawn comes to the region's young and old craters Tycho and Clavius. About 100 million years young, Tycho is the sharp-walled 85 ...
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🌌Lubovna Full Moon On July 13 this well-planned telephoto view recorded a Full Moon rising over Lubovna Castle in eastern Slovania. The photographer was about 3 kilometers from the castle walls and about 357,000 kilometers from this Full Moon near perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit. Known to some as supermoons, full moons near perigee are a little brighter and larger in planet Ea ...
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