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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© Elena Pinna

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🌌The Full Moon and the Dancer On Monday, January's Full Moon rose as the Sun set. Spotted near the eastern horizon, its warm hues are seen in this photo taken near Cagliari, capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia. Of course the familiar patterns of light and dark across the Moon's nearside are created by bright rugged highlands and dark smooth lunar maria. Traditionally the patterns are ...
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🌌Young Star Jet MHO 2147 Laser guide stars and adaptive optics sharpened this stunning ground-based image of stellar jets from the Gemini South Observatory, Chilean Andes, planet Earth. These twin outflows of MHO 2147 are from a young star in formation. It lies toward the central Milky Way and the boundary of the constellations Sagittarius and Ophiuchus at an estimated distance of some 10,000 li ...
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© Mark Carter

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🌌NGC 7822 in Cepheus Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and dark shapes stand out in this colorful telescopic skyscape. The image includes data from narrowband filters, ma ...
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© R. GendlerR. Croman

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🌌M31: The Andromeda Galaxy The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy. Even at some two and a half million light-years distant, this immense spiral galaxy -- spanning over 200,000 light years -- is visible, although as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, and expans ...
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© Lucy Yunxi Hu

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🌌From Orion to the Southern Cross This is a sky filled with glowing icons. On the far left is the familiar constellation of Orion, divided by its iconic three-aligned belt stars and featuring the famous Orion Nebula, both partly encircled by Barnard's Loop. Just left of center in the featured image is the brightest star in the night: Sirius. Arching across the image center is the central band of ...
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© Jarmo RuuthTelescope LiveHeaven's Mirror Observatory

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🌌Chamaeleon Dark Nebulas Sometimes the dark dust of interstellar space has an angular elegance. Such is the case toward the far-south constellation of Chamaeleon. Normally too faint to see, dark dust is best known for blocking visible light from stars and galaxies behind it. In this four-hour exposure, however, the dust is seen mostly in light of its own, with its strong red and near-infrared co ...
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© Alan DyerThe Amazing Sky

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🌌A Retreating Thunderstorm at Sunset What type of cloud is that? This retreating cumulonimbus cloud, more commonly called a thundercloud, is somewhat unusual as it contains the unusual bumpiness of a mammatus cloud on the near end, while simultaneously producing falling rain on the far end. Taken in mid-2013 in southern Alberta, Canada, the cloud is moving to the east, into the distance, as the ...
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🌌Galileo's Europa Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon's icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo's Europa image data has been remastered here, with improved calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa's long curving fractures hi ...
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© Mark Hanson

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🌌NGC 1566: The Spanish Dancer Spiral Galaxy An island universe of billions of stars, NGC 1566 lies about 60 million light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. Popularly known as the Spanish Dancer galaxy, it's seen face-on from our Milky Way perspective. A gorgeous grand design spiral, this galaxy's two graceful spiral arms span over 100,000 light-years, traced by bright blue star cl ...
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© Jason Dain

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🌌Supernova Remnant Simeis 147 It's easy to get lost following the intricate, looping, twisting filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-year ...
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🌌Comet Leonard Closeup from Australia What does Comet Leonard look like up close? Although we can't go there, imaging the comet's coma and inner tails through a small telescope gives us a good idea. As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas -- gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by th ...
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© Matt HarbisonSpace4Everybody

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🌌Orion's Belt Region in Gas and Dust You may have seen Orion's belt before -- but not like this. The three bright stars across this image are, from left to right, Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak: the iconic belt stars of Orion. The rest of the stars in the frame have been digitally removed to highlight the surrounding clouds of glowing gas and dark dust. Some of these clouds have intriguing shapes ...
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🌌Comet Leonard's Tail Wag Why does Comet Leonard's tail wag? The featured time-lapse video shows the ion tail of Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) as it changed over ten days early last month. The video was taken by NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory-Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft that co-orbits the Sun at roughly the same distance as the Earth. Each image in this 29-degree field was subtracted ...
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🌌Hubble's Jupiter and the Shrinking Great Red Spot What will become of Jupiter's Great Red Spot? Gas giant Jupiter is the solar system's largest world with about 320 times the mass of planet Earth. Jupiter is home to one of the largest and longest lasting storm systems known, the Great Red Spot (GRS), visible to the left. The GRS is so large it could swallow Earth, although it has been shrinking ...
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© Cheng Luo

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🌌Quadrantids of the North Named for a forgotten constellation, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower puts on an annual show for planet Earth's northern hemisphere skygazers. The shower's radiant on the sky lies within the old, astronomically obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis. That location is not far from the Big Dipper, at the boundaries of the modern constellations Bootes and Draco. In fact north ...
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© Point Blue Conservation Science

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🌌Ecstatic Solar Eclipse A male Adelie penguin performed this Ecstatic Vocalization in silhouette during the December 4 solar eclipse, the final eclipse of 2021. Of course his Ecstatic Vocalization is a special display that male penguins use to claim their territory and advertise their condition. This penguin's territory, at Cape Crozier Antarctica, is located in one of the largest Adelie penguin ...
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© Tamas Ladanyi

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🌌The Last Days of Venus as the Evening Star That's not a young crescent Moon posing behind cathedral towers after sunset. It's Venus in a crescent phase. About 40 million kilometers away and about 2 percent illuminated by sunlight, it was captured with camera and telephoto lens in this series of exposures as it set in western skies on January 1 from Veszprem, Hungary. The bright celestial beacon ...
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© Luca Vanzella

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🌌A Year of Sunrises Does the Sun always rise in the same direction? No. As the months change, the direction toward the rising Sun changes, too. The featured image shows the direction of sunrise every month during 2021 as seen from the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The camera in the image is always facing due east, with north toward the left and south toward the right. As shown in an accompa ...
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🌌Moons Beyond Rings at Saturn What's happened to that moon of Saturn? Nothing -- Saturn's moon Rhea is just partly hidden behind Saturn's rings. In 2010, the robotic Cassini spacecraft then orbiting Saturn took this narrow-angle view looking across the Solar System's most famous rings. Rings visible in the foreground include the thin F ring on the outside and the much wider A and B rings just in ...
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© Jan Hattenbach

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🌌Comet Leonard's Long Tail You couldn't see Comet Leonard’s extremely long tail with a telescope — it was just too long. You also couldn't see it with binoculars — still too long. Or with your eyes -- it was too dim. Or from a city — the sky was too bright. But from a dark location with a low horizon — your camera could. And still might -- if the comet survives today's closest encounter with the ...
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© Dani Caxete

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🌌Quadruple Lunar Halo Over Winter Road Sometimes falling ice crystals make the atmosphere into a giant lens causing arcs and halos to appear around the Sun or Moon. One Saturday night in 2012 was just such a time near Madrid, Spain, where a winter sky displayed not only a bright Moon but four rare lunar halos. The brightest object, near the top of the featured image, is the Moon. Light from the ...
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© Soumyadeep Mukherjee

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🌌The Full Moon of 2021 very Full Moon of 2021 shines in this year-spanning astrophoto project, a composite portrait of the familiar lunar nearside at each brightest lunar phase. Arranged by moonth, the year progresses in stripes beginning at the top. Taken with the same camera and lens the stripes are from Full Moon images all combined at the same pixel scale. The stripes still looked mismatched ...
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🌌JWST on the Road to L2 This timelapse gif tracks the James Webb Space Telescope as it streaks across the stars of Orion on its journey to a destination beyond the Moon. Recorded on December 28, 12 consecutive exposures each 10 minutes long were aligned and combined with a subsequent color image of the background stars to create the animation. About 2.5 days after its December 25 launch, JWST cr ...
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© Daniele Gasparri

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🌌The Further Tail of Comet Leonard Comet Leonard, brightest comet of 2021, is at the lower left of these two panels captured on December 29 in dark Atacama desert skies. Heading for its perihelion on January 3 Comet Leonard's visible tail has grown. Stacked exposures with a wide angle lens (also displayed in a reversed B/W scheme for contrast), trace the complicated ion tail for an amazing 60 de ...
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🌌Giant Storms and High Clouds on Jupiter What and where are these large ovals? They are rotating storm clouds on Jupiter imaged last month by NASA's Juno spacecraft. In general, higher clouds are lighter in color, and the lightest clouds visible are the relatively small clouds that dot the lower oval. At 50 kilometers across, however, even these light clouds are not small. They are so high up th ...
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🌌Sun Halo over Sweden What's happened to the Sun? Sometimes it looks like the Sun is being viewed through a giant lens. In the featured video, however, there are actually millions of tiny lenses: ice crystals. Water may freeze in the atmosphere into small, flat, six-sided, ice crystals. As these crystals flutter to the ground, much time is spent with their faces flat and parallel to the ground. ...